Paris exhibitions

In order to try to clear the backlog, I’ve put three Paris exhibitions together, with just short reflections. None are strictly photographic, but each one has relevance to at least one aspect of the development of my own work.

Junya Ishigami, Freeing Architecture

07.08.18 Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris

An extensive survey, covering both floors of the gallery, of the work of a radical Japanese architect. In a discussion in the previous module, it was stated that how a building will look when photographed was influencing architects in their designs. The absence of photographs in this exhibition is notable.

Instead, models, drawings and text dominate, reinforcing Ishigami’s concern with the relationship between the natural and the human, and in particular, fluidity between the interior and the exterior (for instance, in the digging out of the basement and removal of interior and exterior walls in the renovation of a museum, the construction of a chapel in a valley from two high undulating walls open to the sky, the creation of interior gardens and the utilisation of open space under canopies and walkways in a number of buildings). Ishigami also prioritises engagement of the community, to both understand how space is used and involve people in consideration of radical spacial solutions which, in some cases, can be adapted to how they are used in practice.


TeamLab, Beyond Borders

08.08.18 La Villette, Paris

I was impressed by a small piece by TeamLab (presented on an LCD panel) at the Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide last year. This, massively scaled up immersive experience, draws on the same technology and philosophy, but has very different aspirations. It’s an experience, not a gallery piece. In the end, though, more entertainment than art. The cycle of of nature narrative (played over the period of one hour) was unconvincing, and seemed to be more a way of organising the experience than carrying any greater meaning. An engaging experience in a playground like environment, but ultimately spectacle rather than art. Reinforced the need to leave space for something new to be created by the viewer/participant.


Ryoji Ikeda, continuum

08.08.18 Pompidou Centre, Paris

Data driven, with integration of the audio and visual. Very much an immersive experience. Worked beautifully with the neighbouring ‘Coding the World‘ exhibition, which explored the link between art and technology through the influence of programming and coding (from systems art through to Ikeda and others, in all disciplines).

Roger Mayne & Bill Stephenson, Love Among the Ruins

S1 Artspace, Sheffield, 20th July – 15th September 2018

This is the first exhibition since S1 Artspace moved to its new gallery on Sheffield’s iconic Park Hill Estate, which is the subject of the exhibition.


Commissioned in 1956, the estate was seen as a radical response to the post-war housing and health crisis. Mayne’s photographs were taken in the early sixties and his grainy monochrome 35mm images, in the style of his work in other working class areas of Britain, capture the day to day life of the community in the early years of the estate. In contrast, Stephenson’s posed informal colour portraits of residents, were made in 1988 in the last days of the, now demolished, neighbouring Hyde Park estate, when both the estates were in considerable disrepair and decline. Today the Park Hill estate is going through substantial redevelopment, with the first phase of redesigned apartments being sold, and one of the other two remaining blocks empty.


The exhibition includes projection of a 60s documentary on Park Hill, and display of documents charting the development and decline of the estate.


The photographs represent two very different periods and approaches to photography. Mayne gives insight into an era in which working class communities were relocated to new housing developments, and explores how communities reform in new, radically different context of the housing development. Stephenson’s work focuses more on the individuals and has a clear sense of collaboration with the people in the photographs.


[From Bill Stephenson, Streets in the Sky, 1988]

The estate is still there as a context, and a clear sense of life on the estate is conveyed by the portraits. For me, bringing these two bodies of work together seems, as an exhibition, arbitrary (though it makes sense as the initial exhibition in this space, and reprises an earlier joint exhibition). Stephenson’s work is certainly closer to the work that I aspire to create. As an exhibition experience, I’m aiming for something more engaging and challenging.

As a footnote, the Park Hill estate acted as a template for the Singapore Housing Development Board estates, with somewhat different outcomes.


Art Against War: Peter Kennard and the CND Movement

Millennium Gallery, Sheffield, 9th June – 7th October 2018

Great to see all this work together in one place. The work has clear intent, has a distinctive visual aesthetic (subverting established forms, particularly those of the press and advertising), directly engages the viewer and arises from a particular way of working. The short video that accompanies the exhibition gives insight into Kennard’s motivation and methods.

Two quotes stand out for me. The first from the video and the second from the introduction to Read and Simmons (2016).

‘There is this sort of mystique still around what art is, and that you have to go to art school, which is rubbish because art is a fantastic way to explore … your own feelings. The gallery is perhaps the only space in our society where people will spend time looking at something that’s not just … fleeting. So it’s really important to put social and political arguments into that context.’

Art Against War: Peter Kennard

‘Researching reality for me involves ripping photographs out of their context to bring the perpetrators of war and poverty slap bang into the same space as their victims. I want to act as an early warning system, be the canary down the mine. Imagining through images the end result of the direction in which we are heading and picturing people struggling to find another way’.

Peter Kennard in Read, M. & Simmons, S. (2016). Photographers and Research: The role of research in contemporary photographic practice. London: Routledge. p.vii

 It’s the close articulation of (political and personal) expression with engagement of the viewer (and consideration of the context, from poster and pamphlet to the gallery) that is important for me here, and prompts me to think carefully about how my own work, and other forms of image making and circulation, address these issues. This is very different in form and content from my own work, but lots to learn about the importance of focus and ways of engaging viewers, in the gallery and through other modes.