Dark cities, by Shyue Woon

The subtitle of the book could have been, « A tale of a forgotten future » as Shyue Woon takes us to a long journey exploring some emblematic areas in three huge cities : Singapore, Tokyo and Seoul.

Each of these cities is the object of an autonomous work, the three being collected in a superb box that gives its name to the trilogy. Shyue Woon is a trained architect and an architectural approach is evident in the way he looks at the places he passes through. He takes us with him in his wanderings, as if to make us visit the recesses of his unconscious. Of the three megacities chosen, he shows us almost nothing, or very little. In each city, he chose to isolate himself, at night in places that were, at other times, symbols of a prosperous future, utopias of the twentieth century.

The first book is entitled « Carpark » and Shyue Woon takes us for a night walk in a multi-storey carpark. I have always had a particular affection for the nooks and « non-places », well… all those places in front of which one passes without ever stopping or even taking a look at it. A succession of details slowly builds an abstract vision of this world of the night. Our imagination creates a parallel universe in which memories reappears. A silhouette draws itself in distance, or is it a ghost? We meet people whom we can’t reach, separated from a window or a blur that prevents us to get in touch.

Shyue Woon evokes the idea of a purgatory in which one evolves, trying to solve a crime story, reference to the black films or an insoluble enigma coming straigh from mythology, which proves impossible to solve. We meet our demons but we also get rid of our fears in a cathartic ordeal.

The second book entitled « Capsule » takes us, as its title indicates in the Nakagin Capsule Tower in Ginza – Tokyo, futuristic project of the early 1970s which today, is on the brink of abandonment since the maintenance there is no more assured. Shyue Woon guides us through this labyrinth of doors and corridors. The light is more present, as if, out of purgatory we found our way to the surface, to the inhabited world. We get lost in this maze of colors to always end up in front of a wall, but with the hope of a light that will deliver the outcome.

Here again the author stops on small things, trivial details that say long about the state of the premises. We find ourselves locked in the past, as in the brain of a brilliant architect who would find himself trapped in his project too futuristic, and here the term capsule takes all its meaning, recalling the films of anticipation in which the deplacements were supposed to be done in some so-called capsules.

« Euljiro », third opus of this trilogy leads us finally in a district of Seoul. It is always dark and our wanderings continue in this dehumanized world. Lights seem to illuminate a vanished world, or at least of which the inhabitants would have leaved places in a sort of hurry. Cables guide us through the streets, like a ball from which we pull the wire to guide us to the exit, ponctuating our way of many traces of life, proof that we are on the right path. The light returns slowly, passing from the structuring spheres of the city to its surface state. If the first book was purgatory, we wonder now in what universe we will emerge.

The three books highlight Shyue Woon’s vision of the city, which is reminiscent of Marc Augé’s definition of « non-place » (one of the texts accompanying « Carpark » refers to it) and the architect he is can only wonder about the spatial organization of the city and the spaces that compose it. How do we go from one place to another, spatially first, but also temporally and here is appearing in the background of the three books, the influence of time on the « project ». Would the futurism of an era become now only old fashionned and, finally, what is this articulation of the present that tilts one towards the other? It is thus as an architect that Shyu Woon uses the night to deconstruct what was built, in order to understand the inner structure of buildings and cities, and to reorganize the spaces around a fiction stemming from our imagination, a little bit as Alice’s world by Lewis Caroll.

Three hardcover books 14,5 x 21 cm, open spine with silkscreen cover, in a box set.

More info : http://shyuewoon.com/

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Body of work, by Bruce Connew

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How to start talking about this book? Perhaps noting that this book is one of the weirdest that I have seen recently. In 2014, when Bruce went round the publishers, the answer was quite unanimous: this book cannot be published… too strong. What a strange answer! It is true that many publishers have become very cautious and unwilling to take any risks, despite the fact that it is their role. Some even ask photographers to participate in the production of their book through crowdfunding campaigns. We are far from a Robert Delpire who, against all American reluctance and with a resolutely avant garde editorial approach, published “Les Américains” by Robert Frank and “New York” by William Klein.

Let’s be back to our subject. No clues about the suject when we discover the book. A black linen cover with just the photographer’s name : Bruce Connew, followed by the title of the book : Body of work. We open the book on a new black page before arriving to the title page, inserted on a special light blue paper : this blue used by parents to repaint the room of the boy to come. The last page of the book, which includes a text from the author and the colophon is … pink, the same pink with which parents repaint the bedroom of the girl to come. Two ribbons to mark pages are of these same colors. I always like, when I discover a new book, to look at the title page, and then go through the colophon before interesting myself in the content itself.

We then return to the beginning of the book and, between two white pages, we find inserted a small photograph of wildflowers, like a torn page of a notebook or a diary like those used to note the daily tasks. And the first image appears on the following page. A large dark image on which we recognize the hoof and lower part of the leg of a horse and his erect penis. A slow rythm will settle through the pages, double pages alternating with blank ones, all in a certain dim light. Muscles tense, we are witnessing a beautiful ballet between the stallion and the mare. The book is violent and intense. He tells us about the reproductive process within the equine world. But beyond this, it is also the story of a fascination Bruce Connew had since a former photograph he saw a long time ago already. His first approach was still uncertain and one can imagine the surprise of the owner of the barn when Bruce told him about his plan! This is the way a new work emerges, there is a kind of intuition of the subject that is often difficult to formulate; this is classic, the subject will be built slowly. In the case of Bruce Connew, the idea of documenting the world of horse-breeding was full of presupposition, but after spending months scrutinizing the horse breeding process, he became attentive to every detail! And from that patience was born this superb book. You could almost miss an important aspect of the work, focused on the formalist photographs, shapes and light that glides on the fur. But taking the time to look at pictures, back and forward, you may discover all the sensitivity of this work that appears in the amazing gazes. Everything happens in the dark, you have to be constantly attentive to detect these tiny details. If the eyes are the mirror of the soul, Bruce asserts: Through mournful eyes, they would make known an understanding of their peculiar predicament.

The book is beautifully printed, which is necessary to render this special atmosphere of the barn in a dim light, we come to smell the musky smell of horses, the sweat, the semen. What was formerly related to economic issues simply becomes sensitive. For those who followed horse races and bets at bookmakers, you know the importance of filiation in the racehorses world, the temptation of a genetic optimization for the “perfect” animal with “absolute” qualities. But all that is set aside here and Bruce well says : I wonder now whether this was my construction, and sprang from somewhere other than what I witnessed in the breeding barn. His work is convincing because, at the end of his book, we ask ourselves the same question! I will probably never look at a mare the way I did before this book. And to be honest, it has taken me some time to really enter this book, but it is definitely worth a review.

And by the way, the 38 images of the series (size 800 x 532mm, frame size 830 x 562 mm) are available for international exhibitions, and I would love to see them, because, even if the book is beautiful, I would so much appreciate to see the large prints.

Hardcover book self published in 2015 in New Zealand ; 24 x 35 cm, black linen cover, 68 pages with 38 black and white photos. Signed and numbered in an edition of 600 copies.

More info : http://www.bruceconnew.com/books/#12-body-of-work

And : http://www.josefchladek.com/book/bruce_connew_-_body_of_work

 


From Russia with love, part II

For the last few years we discover more and more photographers that came from Eastern Europe, especially Russia. This is certainly one of the positive effects of globalization that we can access this production. After my previous post, I wanted to come back on two great books recently discovered, which have in common to question the functioning and building of memory(ies).

The first is “Old family photographs and deep sky objects”, by Alla Mirovskaya. Superb self-published book that combines old photos from family albums with pictures of space made by the Hubble telescope and from Chandra Observatory.

At first sight, one might wonder why associate these two series, especially as Alla Mirovskaya mixes the captions. But it’s ultimately how we begin to find meaning. We realize that to be figurative as these two series are, they nonetheless unknown to us. Whether the constellations or the characters are only known through their representations. They contain the same vagueness while the images overlap and intermingle. Something appears in our imagination, which is not without recalling the montage of attractions theorized by S. M. Eisenstein. One does not only remain a spectator of the story, one seems to remember, alongside Alla when turning the pages of the album. Alla also explains that it is a bit to perpetuate the family tradition that she has done this work. One way to include this memory on paper, now abandoned to the computer.

What is also touching is this association of the closest and the further. This intimacy experienced through the families stories from which Alla Mirovskaya takes her matter, and the absolute distance that no human being will ever experience of the faraway space. It’s a big gap in the history of mankind.

This book is also a piece of the history of Russia and the Soviet Union. We see young pioneers at the Komsomol, leisures, community activities, groups. And also, the shadow of the Cold War with the choice to combine the intimate pictures of Russian families with the US space observation. Like was the twentieth century, two opposing cultures which both needed each other to exist. This past century  is also reminded to us by the use of a few red tinted photographs which emphasizes the memory of the communist era !

One of the greatest quality of this book is, in my opinion, the opportunity for everyone to find his own story. This is somewhat a puzzle that everyone will have to rebuild, with different pieces of stories.

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Hardcover selfpublished book published in 2016, 15 x 20 cm, 128 pages, 100 copies signed and numbered.

Buy the book at Tipi.

 

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The second book I want to talk about here is “Lookbook” by Anastasia Bogomolova. Old boxes stored in a barn where memories will emerge from. Old clothes from her mother and elder sister, from the eighties and nineties, bought in Soviet stores or sewn at home with the help of patterns found in fashion magazines.

As a child, Anastasia liked to wear these clothes, skirts, blouses and shoes are the symbol of femininity to become for the pre-teenager girl. So Anastasia takes out, from these boxes, these old clothes to begin a journey in time. It becomes a role play to revisit these outfits. The poses are sophisticated, like in those old fashion magazines. Her hair combed, made-up, dressed, she poses in front of old colorful wallpapers from the Soviet era. The colors are acid, both for the clothes and the background. The two will meet in a shimmer of colors.

Just like in those old magazines, poses are supposed to be natural but they are not. Sometimes smiling, sometimes seductive, sometimes dreamy, Anastasia alternately charms us, seduces us, or stare at us with distance. She became actress of that first idea that she had of beauty, discovered in the fashion magazines of the seventies and eighties, questioning the social vision of femininity and sexuality. We find these magazines in the book as small reproductions interspersed, which bear witness to this past history. But where the old fashion photos, are only … fashion photographs, the photographs of Anastasia Bogomolova become canvas in a way like Cindy Sherman did before her. Anastasia is on stage to better look at herself in the process of comprehension of her memory, a way to recreate and to stage his memories. The intriguing effect is that the same woman appears on these photos, as was sometimes the same models found in the pages of these old fashion magazines.

From a personal point of view, this work also resonates with my own history. Indeed, I knew these magazines in the seventies, when, to raise me, my mother quit her job to be a seamstress at home. All around, at home, were these magazines, these pieces of fabric, these patterns, and I got used to the rhythm of the sewing machine …

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Finally, and not least, this book is very funny. One goes through the pages with delight, it is a cure for melancholy (literally since this book is anything but black). We end it with joy, especially since it includes a poster: silk summer dress with blue and white strips, 1989. This is just what we need to prepare for summer.

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Self-published softcover book, published in 2016, First edition of 90 signed and numbered copies, Design by Julia Borissova, Photographs, archive & texts by Anastasia Bogomolova, 21×28,5 cm, 40 pages+32 pages of inserts, Including poster 42×59,4 cm.

Read more : http://anabogomolova.viewbook.com/books

And Colin Pantall’s blog

And a good ressource for Russian books : http://store.fotodepartament.ru/