Category Archives: conceptual photography

Salomé, Gérard Rancinan

The Disney Corporation is perhaps the most obvious of targets. Obvious because its saccharine values bear no relation to the harsh realities of life in late capitalist society.

But taking on Disney is no easy matter. The values are promoted by one of the world’s most recognisable brands. The brand is protected by the world’s best lawyers.

Anyone planning to get at Mickey and his pals may as well go the whole hog. And it is wonderfully clear quite how Gérard Rancinan has violated this anthropomorphic mouse.

If the attack is not subtle, the details are still amusing. You would not expect a Disney character to wear a red star, so perhaps things have changed in the Magic Kingdom.

Salome is also more political than you might think. An anarchy badge is pinned to her wristband and, in just such a spirit, she garnishes her trophy with dollar bills.

To be honest, I’m not sure how much we should read into the biblical story. One shudders to think of the messiah who may or may not have been predicted by Mickey. Goofy perhaps.

But God knows it must have been satisfying to drive that six inch nail into the lovable chap’s forehead. This violence and scorn seems to be the real meaning of the work.

Such work is not great for brand Disney. Though you can’t help feel that a less direct approach might have worked as well, since most brands already have an ugly side.

In 2009, Finnish artist Pilvi Takala was refused entry to a paranoid Disneyland Paris. Her crime was merely to be dressed as Snow White in order to comment on migration.

This work is part of Gérard  Rancinan’s Wonderful World trilogy which showed at London Newcaste Project Space in June 2012.

Trainofthoughts @ The Horse Hospital

You might think it’s a first world problem or a high class issue, but just how does a human being get through a seven hour traffic jam?

Such was the predicament of Micheál O’Connell, aka Mocksim, snarled up on the M25 in what it soon emerged would be a history-making tailback.

But while his phone ran out of battery, his digital SLR had enough charge for him to shoot apocalyptic scenes of stranded traffic through his windshield.

On his car stereo was a sound piece by Stace Constantinou, with which he was planning to work. So Mocksim timed shutter clicks to coincide with moments in the composition.

Constantinou’s piece was already a response to a nightmare journey: a once daily and claustrophobia-inducing commute from North Lambeth to Morden.

But this had been displaced in his imagination by what sounds like a raid on the BBC radiophonic workshop. Field recordings from the tube mix with scripted actors.

His protagonist does eventually reach the far side of a river thanks to a ferryperson and we learn that this place is called, with grim inevitability, Mord.

Mocksim meanwhile cut holes in each of his shots, animated and stacked them to make a virtual tunnel which the viewer can finally fly through to freedom.

The two works combine in a dryly amusing way at the Horse Hospital, itself once a pit stop for London cabbies. A place for breakdowns and delays.

So the travel issues just pile up. The UK road and rail infrastructure is not one of the great themes of western culture, but it’s still a pain in the ass. Why not make art about it?

Trainsofthought ran last weekend in London. Visit or to find out more about the artists’ work. 

Sean Lynch, DeLorean Progress Report, 2009-10

DeLorean Progress Report, installation view

Tooling presses once used to manufacture a dream sports car of the 1980s are now to be found 18m below sea level, a habitation for crabs, sea cucumbers and a lobster. This is not a metaphor.

A metaphor would be the 1981 commercial for the DeLorean DMC-12 which showed the car by the ocean with both gull-wing doors open. This image dissolved into a shot of an actual gull in flight.

We have long been familiar with happenings in life which get called stranger than fiction. But this installation is comprised of real world objects which appear more wondrous than art.

There are photos of submerged cast iron presses, together with crabs, taken by industrial divers. And the stainless steel body parts from a DMC-12 were made by a vintage car restorer.

Admittedly, both forms of evidence were commissioned by artist Sean Lynch. So the first becomes a conceptual photograph and the second a contemporary sculpture.

And yet biomarine surveys are conducted in Kilkieran Bay and there are many DeLorean owners who lovingly maintain their vehicles. So the works also display what might be called the poetry of fact.

You may be wondering why part of a car factory is submerged off the coast of Galway. The fact is, after DeLorean went bankrupt, fishermen were among those who brought up the scrap.

The presses became anchors for fish farms, which themselves are no longer economically viable. So as you can see from its Progress Report, the DeLorean is going nowhere fast.

Sean Lynch’s installation can be seen as a possible future in Simon Starling: Never The Same River (Possible Futures, Probable Pasts) at Camden Arts Centre, until 20 February 2011.

You can download a .pdf of the car’s Progress Report from the artist’s website, here. And read an indepth feature on the project written by Kevin Barry in the Dublin Review.

Cindy Sherman at Sprüth Magers

If you were to purchase work from Cindy Sherman‘s new show, someone would apparently come to your home and fit the piece to your room. Her photographic prints fill the whole wall.

They are, in other words, wallpaper and their decorative potential is exaggerated by toile patterning in the background. This puts one in mind of elegant French upholstery or ceramics and I’m told the stuff is like catnip to women of a certain age and social bracket.

So far, so tasteful, but then come giant colour photographs of the artist dressed in a range of outré costumes. We have a circus performer, a seeming inhabitant of Middle Earth, a woman in a nude-woman body suit, and five more who are no less strange for being relatively mundane.

You could hardly say these figures blend in, although there is a ninth incarnation of Sherman who does just that. This one floats gaily through the landscape, rendered in toile-esque black and white.

She looks as if she would be very much at home in someone’s nice home. And by contrast the others look like they come from another planet. It would be like having a permanent stranger in the room.

So despite their resemblance to interior design, these murals do seem emphatic that Sherman’s art is no mere decoration. And its relationship with fashion, while indisputable, is filled with unease.

There’s a great interview with Cindy Sherman in today’s Guardian and a brief but illuminating Q&A with gallery director Andreas Gegner at Dazed Digital.

Show runs until 19 February. See gallery website for more details.

Mohamed Bourouissa, Le Miroir/The Mirror (2006)

This is not what you expect to see when you look in a mirror. Yet all visual art is surely a reflection of the artist and, if it resonates, the viewer.

Mohamed Bourouissa works with young adults from beyond the periphique in Paris, les banlieues. And despite showing life in a culturally excluded zone, this photo does resonate.

Here you can apparently see a gang meeting. Certainly it is not a meeting you would want to interrupt with a polite enquiry as to the agenda. If nothing else, the wall of backs will keep you out.

So the viewer is excluded, just as those present here might find it difficult to access a gallery private view. Such breezy soirees may be no less an expression of power and menace as the pow-wows which take place on rooftop car parks.

The perfect double image in the pool of rainwater seems to be making a point.

This scene is also a dramatisation, an enactment staged for the camera. These youths have agreed to take part in a work of art, just as the viewer has agreed to engage with it. So the mirror is also closer than you might think.

This photo is taken from the series Les Périphéries and can be seen as part of New Ways of Looking at the former Co-operative Department Store, Brighton, until 14 November 2010. For more details please see the website of Brighton Photo Biennial.

Dylan Thomas, Crash #2, Crash #1, Crash #3 (2010)

If photos of anything, these are of altars. Beyond that it is difficult to say what we might be looking at. The titles suggest compacted blocks of wreckage with few other clues.

One implication of the recessed alcove and the lighting in these shots is we might still come to worship at the indeterminate objects. These are staged shots with real presence.

But the chapels are in a bad state of disrepair. So if a god of any sort be here, he is without a doubt “ill,” to quote this bleak poem in translation by César Vallejo.

As for the altars, they look to have seen one sacrifice too many. The priesthood have given them up out of remorse. It was necessary to abandon them for some reason.

And in architectural terms all three scenes bring us face to face with a dead end. The series is called Crash. It is hard not to think some disaster must have befallen this religion.

The possibilities are numerous: World War I, World War II, World War III, or it may be a sad and simple case of a single road death.

So this is wreckage after all, put forward for our contemplation in a gallery. It has strong aesthetic qualities, and that may be the worst part of it.

The Crash series can be seen at Grey Area, Brighton, until 23 October 2010. It is part of Brighton Photo Fringe.