Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Anti-Tourists: Geez and Travel Photography

When I went to thailand the trip made me realise how naive I was. I had pictured myself drinking cocktails on white sand beaches, in clear waters and brightly lit reefs, cliche I know. Well this was not exactly what I got. I mean you can have this to a certain extent, if you are willing to pay the right price and ignore the reality, but what I got was better. I loved the years of built up grime on the streets, the people, the traffic jams with no end in sight. But I guess what all this made me realise was that the tourism images I had been fed were pretty much fabrications of the truth, even manufactured to a certain extent.

 I swam in Maya Bay, in oil stained water along with 300 other people. I swam over the dead coral or what remained of it after the tsunami, and I watched the Japanese girl catch a Clown Fish in her hand and proudly  show her friends while it flapped around like some sort of forgotten trophy. 

My point here is, what if you were not shown these picturesque tourism images? What if you were shown this kind of thing? Would you still want to go?

I recently came across the work of Brisbane based photographer Geez, and I started to recognise that there was another type of Travel Photography going on, dramatically contrasting to the picturesque landscapes so commonly seen in the genre. It would be ignorant to suggest that Travel Photography is a completely new genre, we only have to look back to the ethnographic photographs of the colonial period to realise this.  However this style is not just another branch of exoticism, the photographs do not emphasise difference or cultural exclusivity, and we do not feel like we are being shown another exotic world. What we are shown is very much our world, but Geez's photographs emphasise that it is not the world we live in, each photograph seems like a new point of discovery.

 Westerners have this amazing ability to compartmentalise, even though we are aware of issues like poverty, slavery, economical downfall and disease among others, we ship these issues far off onto the edges of our brain and as long as we are not reminded of these issues we can deny their existence.

Geez's photographs are like the postcards that would have never been published, far too real for the currency driven tourism industry. Perhaps for some of us these images are too confronting or too reductive of the Disneyland aesthetic. They are simultaneously melancholic as they are beautiful but they are not an attempt to make us realise important social and economical issues that we deny. They act as evidence that there is something sort of magical in the places that we try and forget or don't know exist.  

Check out Geez's work below and visit his blog: It Could be Honolulu 


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pedro Ramos and Angus Mcdiarmid, 'Rocks & Water' @ Nine Lives Gallery

Pedro Ramos 

If you're lucky enough to be in Brisbane tonight don't miss the opening of Pedro Ramos and Angus Mcdiarmid's 'Rocks & Water' at Nine Lives Gallery. 

A selection of textual photographs based around the kaleidoscope patterns found in water and rocks. After a long period of mutual respect for the other’s work Pedro and Angus have come together to produce a series of photographs deeply embedded in a nature aesthetic. From sea scapes and rock formations to documenting the people around them engaging in the water that inspires them, both artists have strong ties to the natural world.

Pedro Ramos grew up on Madeira Island, off the coast of Portugal, he now lives and works in Sydney as a freelance photographer and tutor. Still finding the time to pursue his own work, over the last five years he has exhibited works in North American, Europe, Japan and Australasia. Having been featured in major publications such as The Journal, 'Sup, Dossier, Vice and Monster Children amongst others, Pedro returns to Nine Lives after exhibiting in last year’s sold out Semipermanent show. 

Angus Mcdiarmid

Angus Mcdiarmid currently lives and works between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. After producing the publication, The Shire he is about to embark on a South American hiatus. Inspired by National Geographic Magazine and printed press he has a specific fascination with the patterns that can be found within water and rocks. His photos are a simple account of what he and his friends encounter in everyday life.

Opening night 

Thursday May 12th
From 6pm
Nine Lives Gallery
5F Winn St
Fortitude Valley 


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Guide to Viewing Street Art in the White Cube: Space Invaders @ UQAM

Phibs, Derailed, 2003, stencil

I put off seeing Space Invaders at the University of Queensland Art Museum for a while, mostly because I knew what it was going to be and I didn’t think I was ready to see it, to me it was like stepping over some sort of finish line. Street Art in a major museum connotes a type of finality and I couldn’t help but think “what’s next?” Where do we go from here?”  My friends all saw it way before I did. “It’s cool” one of them said. “A bit too cool, if you know what I mean.”  I knew exactly what he meant.

It is beautiful, such a cliché way to describe it, but the high ceilings, the white walls, the polished timber floor, the way your footsteps echo when you walk through the museum, it’s romantic and I love that. But I couldn’t help and compare it to what it was not.  Sure it was nice not getting harassed by the junkies in Hosier Lane,  not having to strategically place a milk crate over the vomit that, bless its heart was in the perfect place to photograph the Reka piece.  But it just wasn't the same. Without those things, it was too clean, too pristine and it freaked me out to see Everfresh crew stickers inside a glass box. 

Meek, Begging for Change, 2004, Stencil

I was thinking of everything the museum had done wrong and seeing the stickers the installers had stuck on the wooden plinth, it struck me that now there was a middle man in Street Art. Then I realised it was not them, but me. They were doing what they had always done; finding an innovative, low brow art with the capacity to make money and turning it into high art within the museum walls. In fact if this was not the way the museum cannon worked none of us would have experienced art as we know it, and here I was hating them for it.

Really what did I expect? The very nature of Street Art is inherently commercial, paste-ups for example are predominantly reproduced over and over again. They are reproductions, material proof of Walter Benjamin’s theory of originality. The idea which was basically because these artworks are reproduced so many times we have no sense of the original, the aura of the work is lost. Who would be able to tell the difference between HA-HA’s first ever Ned Kelly paste-up and his fifty first? Maybe this is why it is so easy for advertisers to pick up on the Street Art aesthetic.  We see this everywhere, from tampon commercials, Toyota using paste-ups to envision the perfect urban environment for you to drive your Hybrid, to Fauxreel being commissioned to promote the new Vespa. So I guess now the question is, whether the establishment of Street Art into the Museum cannon will ultimately cause its death?

Fauxreel for Vespa via

DLUX! Dont be Scared it's only Street Art, 2003, Stencil

This of course is something that I cannot answer, I don’t know, maybe it will. There’s still the question of where to go from here and if we look back to the past once a low brow art was established within the museum the artists who were driving the movement moved on and took their art further, leaving the movement behind. Then on the other hand, is this a type of ‘fuck you’ to the establishment, by a genre that was so against the system making a statement on how easily if it wanted, could enter it?

The debate  around Street Art’s establishment within the museum will obviously continue, but for now I want to suggest a guide for viewing the Space Invaders exhibition. Recognise the works for what they are and where they are, recognise that this is not an in-situ exhibition and fundamentally recognise that these artists and their works want to be here. Don’t think your going to see a twin Miso guarding the doorway in a back alley in Melbourne, because you’re not.


Miso, paste-up, via theopeninghours

Space Invaders
University of Queensland Art Museum
Until June 5th