Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Thinking about Creative Destruction

I recently had a discussion with artist Bastienne Schmidt about my Creative Destruction theme. As I work towards a taxonomy of what I feel is the core of this idea, I've been enjoying working over the definition with artists and friends. (Please check out my blog of Bastienne from my Houston Fotofest post of 2008. She is an artist to watch and an artist whose work yields many pleasures). Bastienne opined that any puncture or marring of the surface of the physical print qualified as Creative Destruction. She immediately called to mind Carlos Garaicoa with his pins and thread outlining now-destroyed buildings. the fact that the pins actually pierce the gelatin layer of the photo is, in her mind, an act of destruction even though the viewer doesn't read the act as something that has defaced the image.

I think this is an interesting path to pursue. In Mr. Garaicoa's case, the fact that he's documenting destruction and demolition is an argument in favor of his inclusion in the list (he's certainly included in any list I have of great living artists). However, at this moment, I'm not quite swayed by the pinholes being an artistic gesture that "destroys" the print. If the viewer does not perceive the work to be about destroying the print, and the artist has no intention of destroying a facet of the print, can we say that there is creative destruction? I lean on the side of "no". I would be more inclined to include someone like Anne-Karin Furunes who punches holes in her silkscreened images to create a newsprint photo/graphical effect. The point of the holes is to take away as much of the photo as she can while leaving an image. The point (literally) of Mr. Garaicoa's pinholes is to create a platform for additional media in his work. I think there's an essential difference.
(Ann-Karin Furunes on Barry Friedman's website)
(Carlos Garaicoa on Lombard-Fried website)

Another artist working with thread and needles puncturing the surface of the print is Finnish artist Ulla Jokisalo. I think this work is more arguably in the world of Creative Destruction as the needle and thread repeatedly stab the print. There is almost a stagecraft effect of making the print seem to bleed. That the work is about troubled childhood memories and a "broken" home life only add to my thought that this artist should be added to the list. Thoughts?
(an example of her work)

What about the collages of Stan Vanderbeek? There was a wonderful show recently at Guild and Greyshkul Gallery showing his prescient and attractive works from the 70s. Part of me says that this is no different in philosophy from the collages of John Stezaker which I have mentioned so frequently in these posts. Yet, again, I think intent is everything. Stezaker seems to be looking to mar and distort the images he's using. Mr. Vanderbeek, in the spirit of all collage artists, seems to be using found images to his own ends. They are raw materials to be manipulated, but their destruction is not explicitly part of the artistic process. If it were, then every collage in existence would be on the Creative Destruction list. I don't think this is the case. Check out views from the exhibit and let me know what you think. (Stan Vanderbeek show link)

1 comment:

  1. Here are some random associations with "creative destruction":

    Historically I think of the "duotone solarizations" of Edmund Teske, which involved re-working his existing negatives, playing with the chemistry (exposing developers to light before they had been fixed, or after they had been partially fixed) - rendering each image unique. Depending on the papers & chemistry used as well, different tonalities were achieved, as well as solarization effects (negatives rendered as positive, & vice versa). Teske comes out of a very distinct pictorial tradition, dating back to the 1920s, in Chicago & subsequently Los Angeles. The print & its surface were assumed to be mediated - the transparency we assume with modern "straight" prints is a later idea. Teske's patron was Aline Barnsdall, who is known now primarily for her estate "Hollyhock House" designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, which is now a cultural center run by the city of L.A. Teske was also a follower of the Vedanta Temple. Unlike more traditional pictorial materials (gum bichromate overlays, platinum printing, etc.), Teske utilized the effects of "deterioration" of the silver, experimenting with chemistry & light, which I think would fit in this framework.

    Teske had been a teacher of James Fee, who works currently, who has experimented a lot with the same techniques.

    Other work that comes to mind: the photos of Sigmar Polke, which use chemicals in a much more selective & delirious manner - such that the image sometimes is barely apparent or unrecognizable.

    Also, some of the prints of Boris Mikhailov, which employ scavenged or "compromised" materials. I'm thinking of his book "Unfinished Dissertation" which uses an academic dissertation as the matrix of Mikhailov's book. Or his use of cyanotype paper. My understanding of Mikhailov's work is that before the fall of the USSR, it was "officially" unofficial, & was deliberately "poor" & "poorly made" to stand outside the world of sanctioned imagery.

    Also (to go in another aesthetic direction): the 80s work of the Starn Twins with its folds, wrinkles, spills & cellophane tape, come to mind.