Photography in Foam: Reinvestigating a Medium Undergoing Digitalization

[Photo Under Construction Article] Credit- Composition 008, 2014 C Kate Steciw

 

Under Construction: New Positions in American Photography
Foam, 17.09 – 10.12

When we stroll down the canals of the city centre of Amsterdam, more often than not we come across the most well-known definition of ‘photographing’: the single-lens reflex camera in the hands of tourists. Subjects are usually centered right in the middle of a viewfinder when the shutter button is pressed and nine out of ten times we do not even print the hundreds of photographs taken on our holidays. However, when taking a walk through Under Construction, Foam’s newest exhibition, many questions about photography techniques will arise. The process of printing, presentation on the walls of a museum, and the concept of which this new generation of photographers is playing with makes you think about what contemporary photography actually is.

In the exhibition Under Construction: New Positions in American Photography, Foam speaks of image-makers, visual artists, and images instead of the traditional terms photographers and photographs. Both the medium and its vocabulary are reevaluated and, maybe even more significant, reinvented. The photographic processes and images result in a fantastic exhibition that lends itself perfectly to an introduction to contemporary photography.

With a substantial amount of references to other techniques in the art world, TIME LightBox got it quite right when they stated that we can speak of “a new generation of artists, who are questioning the very nature of photography itself, and see no reason why a photograph can’t be self-referential while drawing from classical Greek sculpture, 1980’s abstraction, performance art, and the internet, all within the same frame” (Krystal Grow, editor). References to earlier trends in art history are well-represented in Daniel Gordon’s images of still life and portraits. Pears, bananas, flowers, and faces are rearranged by making three-dimensional paper sculptures, often still displaying the glue in the final two-dimensional images that he photographs afterwards.

In another part of the exhibition we see an image in a weirdly shaped frame (or a weirdly shaped image in a matching frame?), as if the other pieces of a larger puzzle have gone missing. It is titled Composition 008 (2014) and it is created by Kate Steciw. It is a mixture of manipulated photography, collage, and computer animation that provokes only one thought: “this is not photography”.

And maybe that’s true. Maybe we expect photography to be as simple as tourist photography. Clicking a shutter button, expecting the photograph to be ready to go, printed and shipped to a museum like Foam. It is not. Artists and photographers do not add artistic value to an image just by looking at the composition or making use of advanced digital techniques. The processes and concepts of images may be sometimes hard to understand. However, when conventions are being broken and room is being made for discussion, you might actually have the chance to witness a revolutionary exhibition in contemporary photography. Then, there is always the information in the exhibition leaflets and the museum’s gift shop…

 

ISA

 

Featured artists: Lucas Blalock, Joshua Citarella, Jessica Eaton, Daniel Gordon, Owen Kydd, Matt Lipps, Matthew Porter, Kate Steciw, and Sara VanDerBeek.

Header Image: Composition 008, 2014 by C. Kate Steciw

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WB Happenings – Week 42/43

We can’t believe it’s been two weeks already, but here you go: the new edition of Writer’s Block Happenings! Check out what WB-approved activities are happening in Amsterdam during the upcoming weeks.  Continue reading “WB Happenings – Week 42/43”

Introduction to the Deep Dark World of Cyberpunk Fiction

cyberpunk by mjbauer

My academic year started on a rather chaotic note. Four days before the first semester was to start, I realised I hadn’t enrolled in any courses. Thankfully I ended up managing to enroll in whatever courses caught my eye (that is, in my 1-second glance of hurry-up-hysteria). Consequently, I found myself stranded in a classroom with a PowerPoint on in the background, displaying grey buildings, computer screens, and an overall immense amount of green little numbers in diagonal columns (you know, like the ones they have in The Matrix, which turns out to be my first and foremost point of reference when trying to say anything remotely intelligent about Science Fiction cyberpunk or whatever dystopian genre you find to your liking). Now, if you’re like me, naively trying to broaden your horizon but then finding yourself gob-smacked at all the talk of technology and cybernetics, with a face that can convey you have NO IDEA what is going on and would VERY MUCH like a PRECISE definition of WHAT THE HELL cyberpunk is… well, then you’re in the right place.

My parents have always encouraged me to read. It was the thing to do before bedtime: “only ten more minutes and then lights go out,” was a regular. At the age of eleven I had mastered the secret ‘under the duvet cover with a flashlight’ move. I like emotional books. Humorous ones occasionally. Science fiction was an utterly unknown genre to me. Not that the aforementioned qualities can’t be found in SF, the latter certainly can, but in the context of technological infrastructures and cyborgs I seem to not be able to appreciate these notions, because the whole thing has to be real for me. Well, all right then, “what is real,” you might ask.

Questions similar to “what is real?” come up in class, but they often seem hopelessly unsolvable to me. I mean: are we really going to delve into subjects like that? The notion of consciousness has also been quite a conversational topic, but its complexity mainly poses a really good excuse for me to drift off into the realms of Half-Awake and Half-Asleep. There, I think about the latest Siri Hustvedt book I just bought, plan on how to factor ‘me-time reading’ into ‘cyber-time’ reading, because yes, rather than the dystopian notion of technology taking over ones life, the reading of cyberpunk fiction has taken over mine.

After about three classes I finally managed to somewhat consciously follow what was going on. The reading was Burning Chrome, written by the grandfather of cyberpunk, William Gibson, and I had read the story, but apparently neglected to understand the part where the main characters were in cyberspace, This meant that they didn’t have bodies, which meant that the sentence “Bodiless, we flew through space” did, in fact, make sense. Eureka! I felt on a roll after this one, read back my notes from the first class and what did I find hidden within my illegible writing? The answer to your prayers: the definition we’ve all been waiting for. No, cyberpunk is not a Sex Pistols song recorded in space. Rather, it contains the word “punk” because it embodies everything describing countercultures, shifts in lifestyles and societal rules. The punk era consisted of putting diaper pins in ears rather than in babies’ diapers, so the function of pins here, was warped. The “cyber” aspect of course stems from “cyberspace”: an imitation of the real world consisting of information. This combination of punk and cyber makes for a highly dystopian genre causing much time and space confusion. It is up to you to choose whether you want to be confused in a realm of floating around in identity crises, organized information systems and despondent thoughts about humanity. But I think my chaotic mind calls for floating around in the here and now, casually reading a SF book here and there, but mostly enjoying the daylight outside which frequently permeates my light reading.

 

ISA

Header image by mjbaur on deviantart.

LAB111 & De Filmhallen

filmhallen

Great news for cinephiles: a couple of weeks ago, film theatres De Filmhallen and LAB111 opened their doors! Writer’s Block editor Isabel visited the cinemas and reported on the airy former tram storage and the eerie former pathological institute now both turned into a film fanatic’s paradise.

Located in a former tram storage in the Oud-West neighbourhood of Amsterdam, De Filmhallen’s high ceilings and large seats bring about a different feel than most other cinemas in town do. It is located in a space that has a very modern and metropolitan atmosphere and reminds one of bustling places such as Borough Market in London. This probably has to do with the fact that besides De Filmhallen, the area also houses a branch of the public library, several art galleries, and will soon contain restaurants and a food court as well. You do not have to be afraid of crowds though. De Filmhallen provides a peaceful escape from the busy Kinkerstraat around the corner with its lofty bar and the cinematic getaways it offers. Its assortment of films consists of quality Hollywood movies, Europe’s finest films, and the best of contemporary world cinema. What’s more, the theatre has the comfiest seats my buttocks have ever encountered and because of the smaller size of the viewing halls, one gets a perfect view of the screen. Although De Filmhallen does not have the dusty cinematic vibe of its sister company The Movies yet, I strongly believe this cinema is prone to become one of Amsterdam’s finest, once it has been worn-in by the many visitors it deserves to receive.

LAB111, a hidden gem in the Helmersbuurt (the beautiful neighbourhood near the Vondelpark), has a completely different vibe. The recently reopened film theatre is located in a building that used to be a medical anatomy lab, which gives the place’s roomy corridors quite a spooky ambiance. The building’s decoration, however, is very sleek and modern and the convivial chatter coming from LAB111’s restaurant soon dispels the spookiness. Next to doubling as an art gallery and restaurant (with a very promising and not that expensive menu that I sadly have not had the chance to test yet), the film theatre hosts an Italian Film Club showing recent Italian releases and houses several film-related companies. LAB111’s diverse programming centres on the latest children’s films, surprising new releases, and old classics. It’s now playing A Film About Coffee (2014), of which the title alone is simply irresistible, and Studio Ghibli’s latest film The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013).

 

ISABEL

 

De Filmhallen
Hannie Dankbaarpassage 12
1053RT Amsterdam
T 020 – 8208122
http://www.filmhallen.nl

LAB111
Arie Biemondstraat 111
1053PD Amsterdam
T 020 – 6169994
http://www.lab111.nl

WB Happenings – Week 40/41

Let’s face it: there simply are days that you find yourself with a desire to go out and do something awesome, but you’ve just got no idea where to go. Boy, have we got just the fix for you! Here, you’ll find a WB-approved selection of events happening in Amsterdam right now, or in the very near future. Do you happen to have a really good suggestion for the next edition of WB Happenings? Let us know through writerssblock@gmail.com, and we might include your suggestion in the next edition!

 

Exhibitions

  • 20 July – 9 November Bad Thoughts @ Stedelijk Museum. Private collection by Martijn and Jeanette Sanders containing a diverse selection of photographs, drawings, and graphic design.
  • 17 September – 10 December Under Construction: New Positions in American Photography @ Foam. Group exhibition of a new generation of image-makers reassessing the value of the photographic image in the 21st century.
  • 10 October – 1 February Breitner schetst Amsterdam @ Stadsarchief.

 

Films

  • 29 September Special screening of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off @ Kriterion, 22.00.
  • From 4 September and onwards A Most Wanted Man. Film directed by Anton Corbijn based on the homonymous book by John le Carré about a power struggle between bankers, lawyers, and counter-terrorists.
  • From 28 August and onwards Sin City: A Dame to Kill For 3D. Neo-noir film starring Jessica Alba, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mickey Rourke and Bruce Willis. Sequel to the film Sin City released in 2005.

 

Theatre

  • 25, 26, 27 September Tasso, Het Nationale Toneel @ Compagnietheater (in Dutch). Play, originally by Johann Wolfgang Goethe, about a young talented artist named Alfonso who has to choose between a life of rest and regularity or a life of freedom and passion.

 

Lecture/Debate

  • 25 September Battle of Ideas – Are We Facing a Democratic Crisis? @ De Balie, 20.00. Panel discussions with experts and an open dialogue with the audience about the democratic crises of today.

 

Books and magazines

  • 27 September Book signing and Q&A with Herman Koch @ American Book Center
  • 04 October Amsterdam Zine Jam 2014 @ Felix Meritis

 

Festivals

  • 6-12 October Camera Japan. Japanese multidisciplinary cultural festival.
  • 8-12 October Afrovibes @ MC Theater and Bijlmer Parktheater. Music, arts and theatre festival celebrating South-African culture.
  • 15-19 October Amsterdam Dance Event. Electronic music festival with more than 800 events in over 80 clubs throughout the city.

Writer’s Block #22

Find here our first Writer’s Block of this academic year!

We hope you enjoy it and you are encouraged to send in some work of your own! Writer’s Block is always looking for new pieces of writing, because without submissions there is no WB. We hope to read some of your writings soon!

Click here for the online version of WB #22.

WB Column: Accents

Awrite! Hou’s aw wi ye? Can A gie ye a haund?

It’s quite remarkable that when you study English you get taught about grammar, literature, philosophy even, but nothing about pronunciation. We do have phonology, but that is mostly theoretical and only in Received Pronunciation. We learn how to pronounce sounds and phonemes, but don’t actually practice it, there is no oral exam.

We firmly believe that there should be a possibility to both practice oral skills and different types of accents. Wouldn’t we all like to show off our well-polished Scottish or Australian accents? We understand that this might not be suitable for the obligated curriculum, but it would definitely be so much fun as an elective. Take the Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen for instance, they already have a similar course to train their students’ oral communication skills.

It would not only be fun but also very useful to be able to speak different accents, because it would broaden the fields of research in other courses. There are books that read as though written in an accent. Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh for example, is written in Scottish English, or The Color Purple by Alice Walker, which is written in African American Vernacular English, and As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner in a Southern American dialect. One can of course understand these books when you speak RP, but knowing the accents and where they come from enriches the experience of reading so much more.

Another reason to learn all sorts of accents, is because it is toe-curlingly awkward when you’re having a conversation with a native speaker and you don’t understand them, to tell them that you study English at University. We’ve had many occasions when we had to embarrassingly admit to this.

Basically, we’re secretly hoping a UvA staff member will read this column and get it done. From our most beloved source WikiHow. We’d like to share with you this golden gift of learning how to speak like a Geordie: http://www.wikihow.com/Talk-Like-a-Geordie . Enjoy rebelling against the system and learning your first non-standard accent on your own! Cheers!

Ines Severino & Yentl Dudink