Archive for August, 2021

ARTHUR OU

Monday, August 23rd, 2021

OBSERVER EFFECT

In photographs of my grandfather’s childhood, signs of Taiwan’s colonial past are everywhere. One that has stayed acutely imprinted in my mind is a group portrait of my youthful grandfather and relatives taken in the 1920’s. I remember the traditional yukatas worn by the men and the Japanese style school uniforms worn by the children, their stiff countenance and stance probably due to the prolonged exposure needed to make the picture. But what was striking were the unusually large leaves of a banana tree sprouting behind the assembled group. Its leaves were black and oily, each leaf disproportionately larger than the heads of the adults. If the tree had tentacles, it would be not unlike a type of carnivorous plant, engulfing the posing subjects standing within its grasp. Capturing the apparent incongruity of the elements in this photograph—my grandfather and relatives, the tropical climate of Taiwan, the Japanese clothing—was undoubtedly not the intention of the photographer, but the image stands as a compositional view of the contrasting forces shaping life in Taiwan at the time.





The act of seeing is never passive. The idea of the observer effect goes something like this: When one casts their gaze onto something, the observer changes or has influence over the future path of the subject or object’s being, however minutely. Seeing entangles the observer to the observed. Seeing requires the presence of light. So the mere presence of light and the observed object subjected to reflecting the light already causes a shift in its state on a subatomic level, since an electron changes course when it comes into contact with a photon. The photographic act is perhaps even more consequential to the subject depicted. There are countless numbers of examples supporting this proposition, from photography’s role in influencing behavior, shifting public opinion, changing the course of conflicts, and shaping history. In the photograph of my grandfather, did they decide themselves to dress in traditional Japanese clothing? Or did the photographer ask them to?

It is common knowledge that the etymology of the word “photography” is rooted in Greek; “fotografía” translates to “drawing with light.” It is also accepted understanding that a photograph, although indexical, is more of a subjective transcription rather than an objective, evidentiary document. We can broaden this notion of photography’s role in shaping reality through other cultural understandings of the medium. In Japanese, “photography” is translated to “写真” which are the characters for “writing reality,” while in Chinese, the characters “攝影” means “recording shadows.” A photographic observation is an intervention and changes the course of the subject’s future path. This photograph of my grandfather is part of his identity, putting the colonial forces shaping his life on display. And in turn, these forces, represented through this single photograph, have since been weaved into the fabric of my worldview.

Arthur Ou was born in 1974 in Taipei (Taiwan) and is based in Queens, New York. He has exhibited internationally, most recently in the 2018 Queens International at the Queens Museum, “99¢” at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit, and “Astoria” at the Grazer Kunstverein in Graz, Austria. His work has been featured in publications including Artforum, Aperture, Blind Spot, Camera Austria, and Art in America. His work has also been considered in published surveys “THE PHOTOGRAPH AS CONTEMPORARY ART,” by Charlotte Cotton, “THE BEAUTY OF A SOCIAL PROBLEM: PHOTOGRAPHY, AUTONOMY, ECONOMY,” by Walter Benn Michaels, and “PHOTOGRAPHY IS MAGIC,” also by Charlotte Cotton. His book, “THE WORLD IS ALL THAT IS THE CASE,” was published by Roma publications in 2019. He is an associate professor of photography at Parsons School of Design in New York City.

www.kathrynbrennan.net
www.koroneougallery.com

MONIQUE MOUTON

Monday, August 23rd, 2021

I’m thinking about a blend.

My dad is Cajun, my mom is Swiss, and I think those two very distinct backgrounds could account for a lot of my sensibility. It’s easier for me to locate if I look at my grandparents. My parents are too close to get the same wide view, so instead I consider what each of their parents bestowed upon them.

There’s a Thích Nhất Hạnh talk where he describes an exercise he did with children: he gave them each a corn kernel and had them tend to it until it sprouted. He then instructed them to talk to the plant and ask, “My dear little plant of corn, do you remember when you were a tiny seed?” The plant was suspicious in response, its green leaves having no resemblance to the kernel. It needed to be gently reminded that yes, it did come from a seed and that this seed is not dead or gone, but living in all its cells.

Later Thích Nhất Hạnh goes on:

“I’m pouring some tea in my glass. And uh, I’m doing this mindfully. And when I do it mindfully I see that this tea has come from a cloud. Yesterday it was a cloud in the sky but today it is tea. So there is a connection between the cloud and the tea. When you look at the tea and if you don’t see the cloud, you have not really seen the tea. You believe that you have seen the tea, but you have not really seen the tea. You have to see the cloud still alive in the tea. The cloud has not died, it has simply become the tea or the ice or the rain or your ice cream. So next time you eat the ice cream look more deeply to see the cloud in the ice cream. That’s meditation. Meditation allows us to see things that other people cannot see. So when you look into the tea you see a cloud and when you are drinking your tea you are drinking your cloud. There’s already a lot of cloud in yourself. You are made of clouds. Among other things. So I see clouds in me, I see clouds in the tea, and this cloud is going to join other clouds, in my body.”












Monique Mouton is an artist living and working in New York City.

www.bridgetdonahue.nyc
www.spazioveda.it

S*AN D. HENRY-SMITH

Monday, August 23rd, 2021

Four portraits of Lucie March on a September day last summer in shifting sunlight. Just before noon, I believe. I imagine that these frames were made in a span of about 15 minutes, though it may have been more. Possibly less. Portraiture as a durational medium is tricky; it can last forever should you allow. I am tempted to dwell, always. We took turns taking pictures of each other on each other’s cameras. I think often of Lucie’s late grandmother’s compass necklace she wears in these; I was transfixed with it then already. I make sure our matching “NEW DOCUMENTS” tattoo is in sight for at least one frame. It’s photography that introduced us in the first place. A large cloud cast over us, made everything blue, then went away again. It had rained the night before—the evidence is on the fence. The grass wasn’t wet, but not exactly dry.

I was on my way out, and she had just gotten in. Me, relocating to the Netherlands; Lu, just back from France. One of the anchors of our relationship is our comings and goings, a commitment to meeting up in the middle. Looking at each other closely when we can. We have been making portraits of each other as long as we’ve known one another: that summer in 2014 catching eyes, wearing some version of the same clothes (something gay, liberal arts, New York City summer), until we soon after went out one night, making photographs around/at/after a Cakes da Killa performance. (Sadly, a lot of my negatives didn’t come out. I was borrowing a Hasselblad that night and couldn’t get my groove. Now, I’m obsessed with the rectangular, but I want to try square again.)

Before we part, Lucie reads to me. I make a recording, this time in audio. It was nearing a year since we’d seen each other last, and it wasn’t clear when we would see each other next, though I know now it wouldn’t have been too long. And we would make more photographs then, too.

 

 


S*an D. Henry-Smith is an artist and writer working primarily in poetry, photography, performance, and publishing. They are the author of WILD PEACH (Futurepoem, 2020), and the director of LUNAR NEW YEAR.

www.seanhenrysmith.com

GELARE KHOSHGOZARAN

Monday, August 23rd, 2021


Gelare Khoshgozaran is an undisciplinary artist and writer who, in 2009 was transplanted from street protests in a city of four seasons to the windowless rooms of the University of Southern California where aesthetics and politics would be discussed in endless summers. Gelare’s work has been exhibited at the New Museum, Queens Museum, Hammer Museum, LAXART, Human Resources, Visitor Welcome Center, Plug In ICA, Cell Project Space, LOOP Barcelona, Beursschouwburg, and Museo Ex Teresa Arte Actual among others. Gelare was the recipient of a Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant (2015), an Art Matters Award (2017), the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (2019) and a Graham Foundation Award (2020). With words published in CONTEMPTORARY (co-founding editor), THE BROOKLYN RAIL, PARKETT, X-TRA, LA REVIEW OF BOOKS, TEMPORARY ART REVIEW, ART PRACTICAL, AJAM MEDIA COLLECTIVE, AND SATURATION: RACE, ART, AND THE CIRCULATION OF VALUE (C. Riley Snorton and Hentyle Yapp. MIT Press co-published by the New Museum), Gelare is an editor at MARCH: A JOURNAL OF ART AND STRATEGY.

www.gelarekhoshgozaran.com

MICHELLA BREDAHL

Monday, August 23rd, 2021

“I AM WHOLE” REFLECTIONS AND THOUGHTS ON MAKING NATURE SACRÉE IN TUNISIA BY MICHELLA BREDAHL IN CONVERSATION WITH ACHREF BALHOUDI




While I attended the National Danish Film school in 2018, a part of the program was to go and make a film abroad on your own. I was sent to Tunis in Tunisia. I had never been there before. Through Facebook I found a little room I could rent in Salammbo. It was late March, which is winter there and very cold at night. The guy I rented the room through told me that the bricks that the building was built with were made of a fabric to keep the heat out. With colder and colder winters in Tunisia, we were both freezing a lot at night, so he gave me several blankets that would keep me warm. I felt like I was sleeping outside some nights. I would keep all of my clothes on when I would sleep. The first week I spent a lot of time wandering around the streets. I noticed that there were a lot of wild cats everywhere. This was a very atypical view for me, because where I’m from in Denmark, most cats are domesticated. You would never see cats gather together in groups like this on the street in Denmark. It was like they were living parallel to the city and its people. The cats later came to play an important role in my short film, Nature Sacrée. I later met up with a Tunisian girl, Siryne, who I met at an exchange program at my school. She was a filmmaker too. We had become close friends. I went and stayed with her for a few days. She spoke with me a lot about not feeling able to express herself in her country. Most of her days, she spent time dreaming about living in Europe. She told me, “One day I will go to Europe and study, this is my way out of this prison”.

She explained to me that in Tunisia it is illegal to kiss on the street. Most cafés were only for men in her area. I had already noticed this myself. She was not allowed to bring any boys home or go out at night. Instead, she would rent a place to date a boy and meet them secretly during the day. I then had an idea for my film to create a space where she and her friends could move and express themselves in juxtaposition to the rules and the government, like the cats in the street. A place where you could kiss and study each other. A place where you could feel free to be yourself. She helped me get in contact with her friends, who said yes to be a part of it as well. We then found an apartment that we could borrow for it.

We all met on the street outside the apartment. I remember everyone feeling shy and excited at the same time. When we got up in the apartment, we were told we could only use the place for an hour. I remember feeling really nervous, because I knew that I was about to ask strangers to make out in front of my camera. We had all agreed that this was going to happen, but I was still nervous and worried about it becoming awkward or it not being a valuable experience for them. This is where I met Achref for the first time. He was very shy. He had this angelic way of moving his body around. He didn’t say much and had this expression on his face that would make anyone smile. I remember everything went so fast. We only stayed in the place for an hour. It felt really special filming them all. I remember my hands were shaking when I stopped the camera for the last time. It felt like I had seen something extremely real in all of them, and especially in Achref something magical appeared in front of us all. This memory has stayed with me up until today. After we left the apartment we found a little café, where we went and sat down and ate some food. I don’t remember what we ate or what we spoke about. I remember I shared my contacts with Achref and told him I wanted to see him again. He told me he wanted to move to Paris and work as a model. I told him I would help him if he came. We said goodbye and I didn’t see him ever again. We kept in contact on social media. I would often see things that he would post online that would touch me.

One day in December, of the past year, I read that he was happy to announce that he had got his residency in Germany. He was going to be able to be himself and love whoever he wanted without fear for his life. It saddened him to think of all the friends he had left behind and of the fact that people are still in danger, living in fear because of ignorance and violence. Their crime is love and self-expression. To my queer friends I say, I am sorry and we will as a community continue to keep fighting for change. Always.

When I was asked to contribute something for “This Long Century” I knew I wanted to share my experience with Achref and give him space to say something about his experience, his thoughts on the world and his current situation in Germany. It was two years ago, when I had filmed him and I had grown older, reflecting a lot about how I as an artist could give people in front of my camera space to express themselves, give them a voice and not only be seen through my eyes, through the camera. I asked Achref a week ago to watch the clip that I had filmed of him two years ago, to share with me his thoughts on it and let me know about his situation today. This is what he wrote:

“My only clear memory of Michella is of her sitting under the shade of a tree with Siryne eating a Shawarma sandwich in a coffee shop, wearing sunglasses in Tunis. She seemed distant, her camera felt like her way to grasp this world, to hold it, and to understand it. That’s how she exists in my mind. When I was filmed by her it felt like I was being seen for the first time. I didn’t need to speak. I was never good at that. Words seem to escape me and my attempts at communicating and connecting with others have always been lost, leaving my mouth only to find a barrier between myself and whoever I was trying to reach. It is probably one of the many survival mechanisms that I developed to hide behind, but for a moment sitting there in silence I managed to express what I was never able to. Through the lens of Michella, I was able to be free in this liminal space. Being queer and non binary was an offense in my country, something that can land you in prison, and definitely get you ostracized from the rest of society. This is where I found myself on the fringe craving freedom and belonging. Freedom for me is to be able to express myself without fear, to have the space to authentically be and for the first time this year I was able to experience that. It really hurts my heart that so many of my LGBTQ friends can’t experience it as I am typing this, and maybe never will. It really shouldn’t be like this. Coming to Germany wasn’t really a choice for me. I couldn’t live in fear in Tunisia anymore. It was eating at me from the inside and it felt as if I was holding my breath for too long. I needed freedom and community. I needed to breath. I thought I’d find that here, in Europe. I found safety, but I gave up on community. I didn’t think I would be confined by the Government to a small district for a year because of my nationality and to Saxony for a few years. I thought I’ll go to Berlin and meet other people like me, that I’ll belong, but instead I found myself alone and isolated, with a lot of trauma and emotional baggage to try to heal. I think I’ll always be on the outside looking in.”





The last conversation I had with Achref was on facetime, Friday the 18th of July. We spoke about freedom and what it meant for both of us. We both felt that social media is a strong weapon to connect between the people you relate with, a tool to find connectivity and light. We can create forces that can change things for us. I told Achref that I will soon be seeing him. My heart hurts to think of him alone in Germany. Instead I choose to think of that moment on the bed, when he felt free, and it seemed like his light came out and maybe for the first time we are looking at him from the outside.

Edited by: Tyí

Photography-based visual artist and documentary filmmaker Michella Bredahl (1988, Denmark) was educated at the Danish Photography School (2011) and the National Danish Film School of Denmark (2019). In her work, she focuses on certain groups of people and communities, such as teenage girls and mothers, capturing the vulnerability of her subjects. Her latest short film Chassé premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam (2020). She lives and works in Paris. Filmography: Nature Sacrée (2018), Chassé (2019)