Jul 28, 2009

Meels' Year of the Photo part three: Inspiration from Motor Town

Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre photograph ruins, but not as you know them. You won't see a Colosseum or Sphinx among their photographs, instead you'll find the ruins of modern society, "the visible symbols and landmarks of our societies and their changes, small pieces of history in suspension."

The pair's images range from disused industrial facilites in the old GDR to once opulent theatres across the states, and, in my favourite set, the remains of Detroit's 1950s heyday.

From Marchand and Meffre's site:
"Detroit was...the dazzling symbol of the American Dream City with its monumental skyscrapers and fancy neighborhoods... Since the 50's, "Motor City" lost more than half of its population. Nowadays, its splendid decaying monuments are, no less than the Pyramids of Egypt, the Coliseum of Rome, or the Acropolis in Athens, remnants of the passing of a great civilization."

The Detroit photos are dripping with poignancy - the grand old buildings appear as a ghost town: looming large, they are devoid of human presence, yet nonetheless convey a strong sense of past occupants. Furthermore, there is an overwhelming impression of the impermanence and fragility of man's endeavours against the ever ticking clock of the universe. Indeed when visiting the ruins of Hadrian's villa outside of Rome, the thing I was struck most by was the contrast between the crumbling bricks and the vigor of the umbrella pines growing all around them. Looking at ruins can remind you of the insight and ingenuity of our early ancestors, but it also puts things in perspective and makes you realise how small and insignificant your life is in the grand scheme of things.

As much as I am moved by all this emotional and philosophical content, I think it is the textural quality of Marchand and Meffre's images than I enjoy the most. Paint no longer just covers surfaces, it flakes, cracks, chips, dust flutters in beams of light; hell there is even a melted clock. Take that, Salvador Dali. I, too, snap away whenever I encounter interestingly decaying paint and surfaces, but never in all my travels have I encountered anything as beautiful as the remains documented by Marchand and Meffre. Now enough of my philosophising/jealous rambling, time to let the images speak for themselves. Suggested soundtrack for viewing: Sufjan Stevens, 'Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head!' (well, what else?).


Jul 24, 2009

Current crush

I found out about Natasha Khan aka Bat For Lashes through the song Prescilla from her first album, Fur and Gold, but it is the song Daniel, taken from her new album, Two Suns, which really has me smitten. Not to mention has the most amazing-creepy-amazing film clip I've seen in a fair while.

EDIT: The video now has embedding disabled, so you need to go here to watch it. 

Meanwhile, in Melbourne, I....

1. Finally put all my very favourite clippings onto twp pinboards. Organised AND inspired, what a combo.
2. Basked in the sun at Systems Garden, Melbourne Uni
3. Was captivated by end of semester art installations, Melbourne Uni.
4. Took sneaky mannequin pics at Portmans (more to come on my mannequin obesession soon).
5-6. Snapped an Armadale afternoon (I am also obsessed with laundromats. Hmm. It appears June was quite the month for idiosyncrasies).
7. Spotted Mr Hendriz hiding out in Windsor.
8. Enjoyed the glow outside Hawksburn station. Finishing work early rocks my world.
9-12. Snapsnapsnapped the ' Light in Winter' installation in Fed Square. By British art collective UVA.

Jul 20, 2009

The lost photos - and a lost place

For the girl who snaps and snaps like there is no tomorrow, nothing can be more distressing than a broken camera mid holiday. But then again my Canon IXUS was almost five years old, and in all fairness, I had really put it through its paces. It fizzled and froze and steamed in protest at all the overworking, three weeks into my trip to Rome. Unfortunately, it also fizzled the day after a very long bus trip around Lazio...so long that that one day, I had decided it was too late to upload my photos. I didn't even go through and review any of them. Figuring that changing the CF card and/or battery would fix the snapped snapper, you can imagine my dismay to see "DATA CORRUPTED" in tiny text on the tiny (5 years old, remember) LCD screen. And, following on from this heartbreak, I'm sure you can also imagine my delight upon discovering that Michael's Camera World could indeed extract the precious images from sad old Mr Ixus. Ahhh, it was an oldie, but it sure did take a good photo and the days shots are no exception. Rome roadtrip #3's itinerary doesn't sound that interesting - just some villas and a monastery, so what - but when you combine the day's wild WILD weather with the eerieness which resulted from us being the only visitors at each respective destination, well, let's just say 'atmospheric' does not do it justic at all. Particularly moving was the monastery of San Benedetto in Subiaco (Italy that is, not the suburb of Perth). The entire monastery complex is clinging to a remote mountain cliff and was built around the cave that Saint Benedict lived in as a hermit for three years before establishing a monastic community. San Benedetto was last on our itinerary, and we arrived just as the late winter afternoon was turning into night. The monastery itself was deserted, and from the minute you step inside, there is a feeling of having also stepped back in time, or more accurately to a place where the concept of time doesn't really exist (the twenty first century certainly doesn't exist at San Benedetto). Every wall and ceiling has been frescoed by the monks who have lived in the monastery over the past 1500 years. As we progressed further into the Lower Church, the sense of being in a sacred space increased, and at the heart of the complex, in sacro specco, the remains of the cave St Benedict lived in, I felt an overwhelming sense of smallness against the grand scale of a) time and b) the world itself. I am aware of how prosaic and exaggerated this all sounds, and maybe writing this is discrediting me as an academic a little. But nonetheless, this is how it felt to be in such a sacred space, so far removed from modern secular life. It was quite possibly the highlight of the whole trip (yes, the highlight of an art-trip was a monastery, as strange as that may seem), and I consider myself lucky to have had such an opportunity.

Rome update the second: Hadrian's Villa, Villa D'Este & Tivoli

Well overdue...

Highlights of week three in Rome -- now over sixth months ago, eeps -- included:
- the Baroque art nerd's holy grail, Caravaggio's St Matthew's chapel in San Luigi dei Francesi
- a compare and contrast of Rome's two main Oratorian edifices - the early Baroque Chiesa Nuova, and Borromini's flowing, dynamic facade for the neighbouring Oratory of the Filipini
- a behind the scenes tour of the Quirinal Palace - opulence central, once the Papal summer residence and now the private residence of the President of the Italian republic. Once we had seen the ballroom at the Quirinal Palace, no ballroom stood a chance of impressing us again
- a whistlestop trip around Rome's stational churches, including the vast Santa Maria Maggiore, and the stylistically disjointed San Giovanni in Laterano
- a rainy dinner in the backstreets around Piazza Navona.

Still to come: photo highlights from the fourth and final week in Rome, plus trips around Lazio, and the final Italian week in Siena and Florence. Whew. I am looking forward to being done with these Italian photoposts -- as nice as it is to reminisce, it's about time for some pics of what's happening in the here and now! Soon; soon I say.
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