Entries from November 2009 ↓

Michael Wolf and the Chinese Chair

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Iconophilia admires German photographer Michael Wolf’s work: this time it’s the vernacular Chinese Chair in his sights. This is one image from the series the bastard chairs of china, from the book “Sitting in China” published by Steidl in 2002, distributed by D.A.P. in the United States. See the 27 others on his website here:bastard chairs. Be patient, they’re slow to open, but it’s worth it… If you missed the previous post, see his spellbinding 100×100 here.

the sacred and profane in the modern landscape

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A friend of Iconophilia has contributed this recent photograph of exploration scars on the Hammersley Tablelands in the Pilbara… This man-made formation – created by bulldozed access roads connecting drill pads – pays careless disregard for significant sites nearby. Our sense of shock at the desecration of the austere beauty of this tract of country  is not just a question of aesthetic sensitivity. Appreciation of the natural beauty of the land as landscape and its origins in the sublime are deeply embedded in many cultures. In this case, however, it appears as a perverse parody inversion of the coded iconography of  contemporary Aboriginal landscape art. Arguably one of the oldest forms of landscape art. Insult to injury.

tourist art and the anthropologist’s gaze

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These details caused Iconophilia to reflect how seldom “tourist art” depicts its target audience… Not that there are many tourists who make it to the Minaret of Jam these days. The Minaret of Jam, in its multiple imaginary representations, is one of the most popular subjects for the pictorial carpets of western Afghanistan in the past decade. “Why do they all look different?” I asked a dealer. “Because none of the weavers have ever seen it” came the answer. But it’s rare that a work of art made for tourists depicts its imaginary audience. This carpet shows a photographer at work with a burqa-clad subject, posed in front of her nomad’s tent. In the other corner we see the outsiders filming each other in front of the monument. Or is this even more specific, an image that closes the loop by depicting the art historian, or the anthropologist, out there engaged in “fieldwork”?

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Hay Fever Day

Adding insult to injury, each year Canberra celebrates Hay Fever Day by filling the thousands of empty hoops which are attached to every static vertical thing in Civic with petuniae. For eight months of each year these rusty coloured rings stand in idle anticipation of November 12, awaiting their plastic tubs filled with petunias to pretty up our manifestly dull metropolitan ambience. And see how sensitively relevant they are to our urban environment?

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Of course these thousands of pots require twice weekly watering, which provides employment, and makes good use of our dwindling water resources. The petuniae, you’ll be please to know, have been genetically modified so that they do not release any pollen into the air. The only remaining question that worries The Iconophile is: what does the petunia farm produce in these idle summer months?

collecting is an affliction

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This may seem a strange thing to read on Iconophilia, but… Just look at the article on the collection of oversize sculptures on New Zealander Alan Gibbs’ property north of Auckland, in the Oz Art and Design supplement last Friday called Wish, although in keeping with Mr Murdoch’s new money-aggregator policy, you have to subscribe to read what is, after all, a hyper-glossy supplement to carry advertisements for Maseratis and expensive watches.  At the other end of the scale of consumerism, The Iconophile asks: is it healthy to spend one’s lazy dollars to commission such gargantuan aesthetic objects as this Anish Kapoor? And why am I thinking it has a Middle Earth feel about it all? Are there Hobbits just over the hill?

anything goes

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As handsome as the James Angas may appear standing in the forecourt of the National Portrait Gallery, your Iconophile does wonder whether amoebae have personalities worth celebrating… Move it a few hundred meters to the east to the National Gallery of Australia, and it wouldn’t have to carry the burden of portraiture.

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The spin that explains the work is less than convincing. While Angas has a wide ranging oeuvre, better known for his squished Bugatti at the AGNSW, it’s his grip on three dimensional math that’s the common thread.

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Incidentally, that’s a portrait of the Iconophile in the background – perhaps the closest he’ll ever get to the walls of the NPG… And I do worry that  Patrick Star may be a bit put out – but then again, he lives under a rock, so he may not notice.

scary invisible sculpture goes commercial

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This is not a commercial. This is. Your Iconophile has been techo-gazumped. Please explain. The invisible readymade below (Maquette for an Invisible Sculpture) was first exhibited in DECOR in Canberra, in August 1993, (in a show curated by Kevin Henderson).

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