Inspiration:Percussion

Texture is a funny word to use when talking about flat pictures or sound.  I use it, though, to help me understand things I can’t touch and why I love music from Iceland.

For the past month, Go Do by Jónsi Birgisson (lead singer of Sigur Rós) has been repeating on my iTunes.   The album will be released in April, but I was awarded early with 3 free preview mp3’s for buying a tour ticket.  Go Do, like the rest of the songs on the album, is coated with many layers of sound. In this video clip, Jónsi and his producer/boyfriend Alex Somers are in their kitchen adding in percussion with their hands and feet.

Why not just use a bass drum?  This video made me think about the first time I played a Sigur Rós song for my mother on a car ride. “So, they sing in Icelandic?” she asked.  “No,” I said, “Hopelandic.  It’s sort of made up.”  “Well, what is he saying?”  “The words don’t really mean anything.”  That annoyed her.  “Then why use words at all?”

Slapping your hands and feet and stomping on a cool, blue suitcase looks like plain fun – like children making noise with what’s around.  That includes your voice.  In Go Do, electronic technology is used to break up  Jónsi’s voice into a syncopated rhythm that compliments the percussion.  On top of all this, is his voice harmonizing with itself, emphasizing Jónsi’s unusually wide tenor range.   The playful percussion – the slapping and stomping – ground the verses, and the effect is a song that can “run” and “fly”.

Texture in Go Do, videos, movies, photographs, etc, puts faith in memory.  It conjures up  impressions from my past that help me connect to, and understand what is happening.  There is a physical component to the intangible quality of music and photography.  In that sense, Go Do is a challenging, beautiful piece of music, with layers of sound that ask me to recall how it felt the last time I stomped on my own adorable blue suit case.

Enjoy the full video:-)

MFA Thesis Show: Pierre Le Hors

Studies for a Still Life in Red Green and Blue
(Shine On)

February 19 | Friday | 6:00–9:00 pm
February 20 | Saturday | 11:00 am–6:00 pm

24-20 Jackson Avenue, 3rd Floor – Long Island City

Pierre Le Hors is presenting his work in the 3rd ICP-Bard MFA thesis solo show from the class of 2010.  His show, entitled Studies for a Still Life in Red Green and Blue (Shine On), is opening tonight at our Long Island City studio space.  It features colorful reflections and refractions using mirrors, projected images, and a still life installation. Le Hors also published zines, a compilation of photographs printed on news print, that are free for the taking. I talked with him about his presentation choices:

Hernease: It would be nice to get an idea of your relationship with photography and its effect on the development of your show

Pierre: Well basically it has been a very long process to get to what you saw today, I guess it started in earnest at some point in the fall. I went through a lot of different ideas, strategies for display of images…but first of all I knew from the very beginning that i did not want the show to be a kind of 2-year “retrospective” of the stuff I had done in grad school, like a kind of “best of” or something like that…so I thought that it would be a lot more exciting to just make the whole thing one work, like a self-contained work made up of several pieces meant to work together.

Clearly his process was a personal one, and he certainly took the viewer experience into account as well.  So, from the perspective of a viewer coming to see a thesis show of a graduate from a photography program, I asked an obvious question:

Hernease: I was wondering if you had considered hanging any tangible prints.  They are noticeably absent, except in your zine.

Pierre: Right. Books and prints are very different for me. I just feel that at this point in time, prints have nothing to do with how we experience photographs. Except for those rare occasions when we encounter photos in a gallery or museum or an artist’s studio. Very few other places do we encounter an inkjet print on a wall.  I think photos now tend to live either on the printed page in book form, or on a backlit screen, or on a billboard or shop display.

Hernease: Okay. So, you wanted these particular photographs [in your zine] to “live”?

Pierre: Well, to put in another way, I don’t want the pictures to be rarefied as precious things to be treated carefully and preserved, that means nothing to me in my life. I’d rather them be experienced as I experience photographs, which is mostly as flickering images, even “throw-away” images…I look at photos on the internet most of the time, you know?

Hernease: Yeah. That makes sense. Well, once you decided to not present images as formal prints, how was it dealing with the gallery space?

Pierre: Then I really started treating it as an immersive environment… I used my body for scale reference, so I thought about how the images work once they are my size, larger than me, and smaller so that i have to stoop or kneel to see them. Also, being able to move around the space became very important –the projections on mirrors really change depending on where you are in relation to them,

Hernease:  Finally, I want to know how you have changed in your work.  It’s a big question, but, if you could sum it up in a way that would be helpful in seeing a progression for someone who isn’t familiar with your earlier work.


Pierre: It’s a little hard to step back from it to get a sense of the bigger picture…over the last couple of years i certainly have gotten more aware of the possibilities of the studio, rather than being completely dependent on my geographical location to provide content / context for my images. I’ve really become obsessed with books and publications… Overall, I can say that my work is now more honestly related to my experience, that the work has in a sense merged into my experience.  I hope that makes sense!

Hernease: Yes! It does. That was a bit of an unfair question, I know, because you’re really not done yet, and it’s been a long process.

Pierre: It’s never done!

Pierre’s show will be done Saturday, of course.  Studio hours and location are up top.

I Always Never_______

Always

I Always #30: Hernease Davis, Blue Moon 1, 2009, © Hernease Davis

  1. I always think
  2. I always stress out about planned shoots
  3. I always question my intentions
  4. I always look through the view finder of my SLR
  5. I always imagine the scenes in my head
  6. I always stray away from my original plan
  7. I always shoot in RAW when shooting digital
  8. I always aim to focus in on the subject
  9. I always try to contain the image in the frame
  10. I always think of a vertical perspective as an alternate
  11. I always jot down random ideas
  12. I always have a feeling of lost creativity after shooting from a list
  13. I always carry a camera
  14. I always worry that I won’t be able to capture what I envision
  15. I always feel as if I shoot too much if I take a photo from the same angle
  16. I always consider lighting.
  17. I always imagine people in my images
  18. I always think of how to build on an idea, how to make more images along a theme
  19. I always consider my dreams in relation to what I want to photograph
  20. I always consider what these people will be wearing
  21. I always scout out a location before hand
  22. I always wait until I am in a good mood before I shoot
  23. I always put the lens caps back on
  24. I always use music to calm me down and help my mind wander
  25. I always write out my frustration in my process
  26. I always think, “Is this weird?”
  27. I always want to produce a photograph that makes me feel accomplished.
  28. I always shoot with my glasses on
  29. I always expect the worst
  30. I always wait until I am compelled to shoot
  31. I always hope I am not making work that looks exactly the same as someone else’s.
  32. I always want something in focus
  33. I always question my choice of perspective
  34. I always get anxious about asking my friends to pose for me
  35. I always am afraid of seeming out of control when photographing my friends
  36. I always want to be shooting film
  37. I always burn a disc of my work
  38. I always hold my breath when the shutter speed is 1/30 or less
  39. I always like experimenting
  40. I always think of images when listening to my favorite songs
  41. I always look for an unconventional perspective
  42. I always under or over expose
  43. I always spend a long time thinking on a written idea
  44. I always am afraid others will not completely understand my work
  45. I always have a notebook with me
  46. I always shoot with my feet spread apart
  47. I always shoot in color and convert to b&w later
  48. I always think in still images first
  49. I always find it hard to explain my ideas to those posing for me
  50. I always say “okay” when I feel done with a shoot.

Never

  1. I never think about future text placement in my photographs
  2. I never shoot with my contacts on.
  3. I never take portraits of strangers
  4. I never print bigger than 16×20
  5. I never use animals
  6. I never look at family albums
  7. I never go over my journals or poetry
  8. I never share my inspirations with my parents
  9. I never ask my family for critique
  10. I never develop my fancy film at convenience stores
  11. I never shoot with an assistant
  12. I never develop my film or upload my files immediately
  13. I never build props
  14. I never buy costumes or wardrobes
  15. I never work with make-up artists
  16. I never do long exposures of stars
  17. I never plan to do shoots in crowded areas
  18. I never photograph nude portraits
  19. I never hang my own prints in my bedroom
  20. I never think about stock photography when I shoot
  21. I never take serious portraits of my father
  22. I never shoot when I am angry
  23. I never enjoy using tripods
  24. I never stick to my shot list
  25. I never make collages
  26. I never draw or write on my prints
  27. I never throw away color test prints
    I never #28: Hernease Davis, Froid, 2010 © Hernease Davis
  28. I never use friends as models when it is really cold outside

    I never #29: Hernease Davis, The Walt Disney Music Hall from the Stop Light at Grand & 1st, ©2010 Hernease Davis

    I never #29: Hernease Davis, Below Grand , ©2010 Hernease Davis

  29. I never photograph the Disney Music Hall in Los Angeles
  30. I never enjoy lugging strobes around
  31. I never rush
  32. I never shoot in dangerous places, like cliffs or alleys at night
  33. I never am satisfied when the photograph I shoot does not match what I imagined
  34. I never leave the house without my iPod (The files on my iPod are my companion, especially on the subway/bus when I happen to sit next to a stranger who likes to eat with an open mouth.  I carry around my favorite music, NPR, audio Yoga – they help me think of images, stay informed, stay calm, and make the 10-minute walk home from the subway less annoying.  Those files don’t make me a better person, and when I left the house without them, I survived.)
  35. I never go more than a month without doing some form of exercise
  36. I never used pages I used to tear from magazines for inspiration
  37. I never photograph my tennis racquet
  38. I never photograph my room at night
  39. I never am comfortable photographing myself, by myself
  40. I never think to use myself first
  41. I never photograph my Aunts

    I never #42: Hernease Davis, Thoreau Walk, ©2009 Hernease Davis

    I never #42: Hernease Davis, Thoreau Volvo, ©2009 Hernease Davis

    I never #42: Hernease Davis, Thoreau Tree, ©2009 Hernease Davis

    I never #42: Hernease Davis, Thoreau Street, ©2009 Hernease Davis

  42. I never photograph my block
  43. I never shoot long exposures of traffic
  44. I never photograph the floor of my room
  45. I never think about abstraction first
  46. I never remember to hide certain things
  47. I never am comfortable with ambiguity
  48. I never make holograms
  49. I never fully flesh out my intentions

    I Never #50: Hernease Davis, Apt Mirrors, 2009, © Hernease Davis

  50. I never consider my point & shoot to be my  “good” or “nice” or “real” camera

Exhibit: Articulation

Articulation considers the firm, intimate, joyful and productive traces of our hands.  This exhibit is a response to a class assignment that required us to curate an online show around a photo we chose from the International Center of Photography’s Triennial Dress Codes.  The photo I chose was Hu Yang’s portrait of Xu Xian Yuann. In relation to Hu Yang’s piece, Articulation seeks to explore how hands as detail define the subjects in these photographs.   Some of the images use hands in a straight forward manner, while others allow the viewer to access their cultural knowledge to translate the moment in the photograph.  Others show the hands graphically, where they conform to the structure of the image as well. 

Lewis W. Hine, Powerhouse Mechanic, 1925, © Lewis W. Hine

 

Margarethe Mather, Summer Kimono Billy Justema in Man’s, 1923, © Margarethe Mather

 

In Lewis Hine’s Powerhouse, the photo presents a mechanical surrounding.  The machine, first, is made up of rounded, distinct shapes.  The worker, as a part of the machine, continues the contour of the equipment in his rounded back, muscular arms, and hands that run above and parallel to the bolts he is tightening.  In Margarethe Mather’s photo of Billy Justema in a Kimono, his hands curl as does the design and drape of the oversized garment he is wearing.  His hands are postured in pose and, perhaps of equal importance, to hold the large kimono in place. 

Clarence H. White,Ring Toss, 1899, © Clarence H. White

 

Barbara Morgan, Martha Graham: Letter to the World (Kick) 1940, © Barbara Morgan

 

Heinrich Zille, Handstands, 1900, © Heinrich Zille

 

Clarence White’s Ring Toss and Barbara Morgan’s photo of Martha Graham’s kick, takes our attention to the twists of the body.  The technique of tossing a ring rounds the hand, the arm, the waist and then the shoulders.  Is this young girl the skilled one whose rings have scored points?  Or are the two girls in the background reclined in confidence that she will not succeed on this try? In Morgan’s photo, the viewer can be assured of proper technique in Graham’s face, which contrasts the control, strength and balance needed for such a “kick”.  Her face offers the emotion while her right hand accents despair, and along with the left hand, continue the intensity, direction and curve of her rising leg. In Heinrich Zille’s Handstands, there is yet again, balance and support, offering playful and crude shapes, but a novice attempt at positions that take our bodies beyond what nature, perhaps, intended. 

Felix H. Man, Igor Stravinsky Conducting at a Rehearsal, 1929, © Felix H. Man

 

Lidell Sawyer, In the Twilight, 1888, © Lidell Sawyer

 

Eugene Richards, Dorchester Days, 1978, © Eugene Richards

 

The hands can, no doubt, be quite expressive communicating with common signs in common language.  In Felix H. Man’s photo of Igor Stravinsky in rehearsal, the hands are crucial for musical communication.  They control the tempo, the dynamics, when the music begins and when it ends.  Stravinsky is the interpreter.  His hands command the players and the eventual audience experience.  In Lidell Sawyer’s In the Twilight,we are witnesses of more subtle gestures.  If one is to interpret the presence of a man and a woman alone with a boat on the shore as a romantic scene, one could assume a new relationship.  There is a physical distance, but their eye contact and body language suggests attachment.  The woman’s right hand is positioned to fix her hair, creating a bend in the arm that her companion mirrors with his right hand.  In Eugene Richard’s photo, the hands close the distance in a playful act between two family members.  Richard’s photograph also draws us in with the calendar as the focal point.  The contrast between the peaceful portrait held with aged hands, and the playful tickling in the back, provide a lively dynamic of image within image. 

André Kertész, Alexander Calder, 1929, © André Kertész

 

Lukas Einsele, Landmine Impact Survey, Bosnia, 2003, © Lukas Einsele

 

Alois Löcherer, Transport of the Bavaria (torso), 1850, © Alois Löcherer

 

Moving on to the subject of labor, we have Andre Kortesz’s photo of Alexander Calder holding strings belonging to the trapeze portion of the miniature circus he is building.  His hands are still while he contemplates his next move.  His thoughtful, stern expression, brings a significance to this task.  Surrounded by miniature horses and acrobatic performers that we can assume he made, one can see this is a serious endeavor.  He is skillful, and methodical in his progression.  In Lukas Einsele’s Landmine Impact Survey in Bosnia, hands emphasize distance and scale.  As the men gather information, the standing man’s hands work to point past the landmine site towards developed land that, from a distance, seems fully recovered from war.  In Alois Locherer’s photograph of men transporting the torso of the great Bavaria statue, the symbolic and literal meet in their work.  The Bavaria was designed to allegorically represent power and strength.  It was so large that it had to be built in four portions and then moved in stages to its final location.

Alec Soth, Two Towels, 2004, © Alec Soth

 

Hernease Davis, Keep Sakes, 2009 © Hernease Davis

 

Sarah Hobbs, untitled (Perfectionist), 2002, © Sarah Hobbs

 

In Alec Soth’s Two Towels, in my own piece Keep Sakes, and in Sarah Hobb’s Perfectionist, we see the left behind evidence of work. In Soth’s, we have a cliché and textbook decoration that anyone who has been on a cruise (or maybe a fancy hotel) would recognize as a swan sculpture your housekeeper made as a punctuation to the daily room cleaning.  In Keep Sakes, a simple task of browsing through personal memorabilia shows the presence of belongings, but only the shadow of hands.  Hobb’s Perfectionist is hyperbole, and conjures images of an obsessive individual with busy hands.  The photo would suggest a writer of some sort: a perfectionist beginning a book, a perfectionist beginning a letter, a perfectionist looking for that perfect piece of paper.  Perhaps the task was successful, or the scene is waiting for the writer to return to their impossible burden. 

  

Trish Morrissey, April 16, 1967, Seven Years, 2003, © Trish Morrissey

 

Hu Yang, Shanghai Living: Xu Xian Yuan, 2002, © Hu Yang

 

In Trish Morrissey’s April 16, 1967 photograph, hands are clasped in hope, harmonizing with an expected exhale.  The photo is frozen in that time right after the birthday wish, and before its release.  There is also joy in the relaxed shoulders and clasped hands of the woman in the blue dress.  In Hu Yang’s portrait of Xu Xian Yuann and his wife, we see their hands at work and in anticipation.  Are their smiles attributed to each other, their work, or both?  In Xian Yuan’s accompanying quote to this photo, we learn about his life’s journey: 

I came back to China before the liberation to contribute myself to China’s aviation construction.  I was wronged when the Communist Party was denouncing Hu Feng and later, I was sent to Qinghai for reformation.  I came back to Shanghai after my retirement and spend my late life singing and playing harmonica.  When I had a good health a few years ago, I went to Fuxing Park every day to take charge of the English Corner there and teach people sing songs.  My dream is to spread abroad the over 100 Chinese folk songs I’ve translated.  I don’t have pains because I have an optimistic attitude towards life. 

There are years of skills in Xian Yuan’s hands. This candid portrait promises that his joy and skill continues.