Exhibition: Punk - Chaos to Couture at the Met

I’ve been pushing off going to this exhibition since it opened in May, especially after the whole opening gala kind of made me a little sick to the stomach. I knew all along that this wasn’t really an exhibition about punk in general, about how the punk movement began, where it came from, and how it developed and how it died, or evolved (however you want to see it). I knew all along it was more about how punk influenced fashion… But still. I literally grew up around a lot of music, including a lot of punk, seeing as my father was one. Back in the early 80’s he sported a pretty impressive Mohawk and wore some interesting items of clothing. He also lived the kind of life you can only imagine a punk would live in England back then, and I was very much a part of it as a kid. For someone who grew up in the middle of those dark days of Thatcher and amidst the punk movement I didn’t want to go to this exhibition as a snob, but with an open mind. I really did try.

But seriously. There is hardly anything referring to the movement or the music itself, except for a few quotes on the walls (was it really necessary to quote Joe Strummer as “Joe Strummer from The Clash” and Johnny Rotten as “Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols”?!). The CBGB bogs made me laugh because it was funny to see a place where we have all peed or done something in once in our lives uprooted and displayed as part of a museum exhibition. There were a few original Vivienne Westwood pieces from back in the day on display, but all in all the exhibition was mainly a collection of haute couture designer garments that were in some way influenced by punk. From a fashion point of view it was pretty cool as there were some items that resembled outfits that I’ve been putting together since my teens, a lot of lace, black, shredded jeans and t-shirts. The couture dresses made from garbage bags were interesting, although I doubt they could actually ever be worn, more pieces of art than actual articles of clothing.

But where was the music? Where were all the photos that could have been displayed around the rooms? Where were the videos that could have been shown on TV monitors? Why were most of the models wearing clothes designed after 2000? If the point of the whole exhibition was to showcase how punk had influenced fashion then why were there not any references or pictures to the icons in the late 70’s and early 80’s who created the outfits in the beginning? Of course Vivienne Westwood is one icon, as is Malcolm McLaren, but there are so many others, not fashion designers, but musicians, poets, people who just were there at the time and created their own outfits out of nothing. Because, you know, I doubt that anyone who was part of it all back then would have been able to afford a Moschino trash bag dress. I mean, I know my dad couldn’t, seeing as being on the dole in the early 80’s didn’t really make you a millionaire.

Anyway, there could have been a lot more to this exhibition. Instead, to me, it was really just a bunch of designer outfits lined up in different rooms, which were somewhat influenced by punk. I just feel like it fell short of a lot of things. And the whole “no photos allowed” part was quite silly – are they worried somebody is going to steal the designers’ ideas?! I mean, that’s a little ironic, don’t you think? I managed to get take some shots with my phone anyway, but it’s pretty easy to find a bunch of images online if you search. If you really want to.

All in all, pretty cool from a visual aspect, but completely lacking in any kind of background or actual real punk substance. Only bother going if you love fashion and haute couture, or if you want to visit the rest of the museum (which is completely worth it). There is SO much they could have done to make this exhibition amazing. They just didn’t.

One of my friends gave me THIS brilliant book about Vivienne Westwood as a Christmas gift quite a few years ago. Now this is relevant and pretty awesome in terms of background and images.

Punk: Chaos to Couture at The Metropolitan Museum of Art   - exhibition ends on August 14th

Exhibition - NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star

1993 was a year of changes for me. A month in India with my family where the colours and the smells and the people transformed my horizons. Listening to Tim Buckley’s Sefronia in the boiling bathtub after a month of bucket-baths that were scheduled every three days, and finally appreciating how lucky I was to have constant hot, running water. Hearing Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam on the radio and connecting with this music scene so intensely, but still not knowing how much it would actually affect the rest of my life. I remember school still being a nightmare, but at least with new friends who shared my passions, my interests, my hopes and my fears. Family falling apart around me and tensions were always riding high at home.

1993 was the last year in Sassenage, a village next to Grenoble, nestled at the bottom of the Vercors mountains. It was long summer nights listening to Led Zeppelin and Tori Amos, writing in my journals and dreaming of cute boys and good-looking musicians. It was cold winter treks home from school on the A tram and still sometimes struggling with the French language when my shyness overcame me. 1993 brings me back to my early teens. Emotional, happy, depressed, full of dreams, angst and smiles. And a lot of good music!

How could I miss a museum exhibition named after a Sonic Youth album that focuses on the year 1993? NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star has been on at the New Museum for a few months now and I had  wanted to go since it opened but finally made it there last Friday. The exhibition focuses on artwork that was exhibited in 1993, and goes from the 5th floor all the way down to the ground floor. Outside of my own personal life in 1993 I remember all of the different things that were happening, conflicts in the Middle East and Yugoslavia, AIDS, demonstrations against racism in my home town… 
While walking through the exhibition I felt that I was walking through a moment in time, but also a moment that is still completely relevant today. Politics and culture and history melded together to create sometimes amazing, sometimes shocking, but mainly inspiring pieces of art that still tell stories. I love that they grouped together a wide collection of artwork and artists that define a year, and even the beginning of a decade, but that it is not focused on one group or artists, but more a span of well-known artists, lesser known artists, New York based artists and foreign artists whose work was exhibited in New York in 1993. Altogether it creates an experience of walking through similar ideas and clashing viewpoints, difference, changes, ideas and personal views. I felt like I was walking through a minefield of inspiration, which lead to me being inspired to go back home and pick up everything that I have put aside and finish off what I started, for better or for worse. 

From beauty to pain, via controversy and anger, artists such as Lina Bertucci, Nan Goldin, Nicole Eisenman, Charles Ray, Paul McCarthy, Sean Landers, Gillian Wearing, Pepon Osorio and Larry Clark (among many others) are exhibited. Sculpture, paintings, photography, writing, quotes and collages: all forms of artwork are displayed on all of the floors of the museum. I walked through listening to Nine Inch Nails on my iPod, and felt how perfectly it all worked together, so much that I am still thinking about it today. I love going to museums alone and getting lost in the artwork and in all of the thoughts that it inspires in my own head, and thinking about it for days afterwards. This exhibition is only on until the end of the month, so if you haven’t seen it yet I highly recommend it.

New Museum

Art/Exhibition: Courtney Love - And She's Not Even Pretty

 Seeing as I was over in Chelsea on Monday to see the Tim Hetherington retrospective (see HERE), and I was already soaking wet from the rain that was coming at me from all directions I decided to stop by the Fred Torres Collaborations gallery to see the Courtney Love exhibition that is currently showing there. I actually walked along 29th street between Tenth and Eleventh Aves a couple of times until I figured out that the gallery was actually through a small door and upstairs, on the north side of the street. I wasn't really expecting much from the artwork, so I was at the least pleasantly surprised that I actually thought it was pretty good.

My "relationship" with Courtney Love has been up and down over the years. I absolutely adored her in the early to late 90's, and still know the lyrics to every single one of her songs. I still listen to Hole on a regular basis, I mean Live Through This got me through some pretty tough times in 1994, and I have many memories attached to certain songs. Then she completely lost it and all that adoration I had for her just turned into something similar to disappointment mixed with embarrassment. At some point I think that I still hoped she would snap out of it and become slightly human again, but I really doubt that will happen anymore. I know she's been through a lot, but so have many people, including myself, and we don't become insane madwomen who pretend to be a mix between Dickens' Miss Havisham with some kind of Yoko Ono complex (or maybe the idea that she should have been Yoko Ono - the only thing that connects them both is that they both have famous dead husbands and they are both artists). I saw Courtney play with her new version of Hole a few years back, and although it was fun to see her live, it just wasn't really that good. Maybe I just grew up and she didn't, or maybe she just doesn't have what she used to... Probably the latter ;)

Anyway, I was really just expecting a bunch of childish drawings and paintings depicting girl/women complaining about being used and abused by men and society, and really just went out of curiosity and to report back to some friends in England that I had been to see it. Some of the drawings are a little on the childish side, but this actually makes them more whimsical and dreamy. It looks likes many of them were done using mainly crayons, some watercolours and some pencil. All the drawings depict pretty girls and women in different states of undress, many with sad, sad eyes, surrounded by words that are obviously lyrics from songs that already have been released, or just words that Courtney uses as taglines or thoughts to complement her drawings.

"I knew a boy he came from the sea, He was the only boy who ever knew The Truth about me, I'm overwhelmed and undersexed, Baby what did you expect. Your whole wide world in my hands" - pure Courtney Love song lyrics.

I'm still surprised that I liked it. The drawings are pretty and somewhat dark; imperfect but thoughtful. I like being pleasantly surprised like this - it beats being disappointed.

Photography/Exhibition: Tim Hetherington Retrospective

I am SO happy I was able to catch this Tim Hetherington retrospective/exhibition before it closes this Saturday - and if you haven't seen it yet you must go to the Yossi Milo Gallery to see it, especially seeing that it is the first major exhibition of his work in the US (which really surprises me).

The front room is devoted to a collection of Tim's photos taken in Liberia while he was covering the civil war there. The second room contains a set of photos taken of US soldiers based in Afghanistan (taken from the series named Infidel) . The gallery is also running two short films made by Tim himself, Diary and Sleeping Soldiers. Diary is composed of a collage of footage taken by Tim over his 10 years of reporting, and, in his own words is "a highly personal and experimental film that expresses the subjective experience of my work, and was made as an attempt to locate myself after ten years of reporting. It's a kaleidoscope of images that link our western reality to the seemingly distant worlds we see in the media". You can watch it online HERE - such haunting film. The juxtaposition of driving down a road in Africa and driving down a road in England is really well done - same type of journey, completely different perspective and views. In one, people walk down the street, lost in their own thoughts, moving along to their next destination. In the other people are walking to survive.

Tim died in Libya last year while covering the civil war there. He was located in Misrata with a group of rebel soldiers, as well as a few other foreign journalists and photographers. Fellow photographer Chris Hondros also died in the Gaddafi-supporter mortar attack on the group. Tim's work has always provoked many emotions and thoughts in me, I think mainly because he really focused on the individual amidst a world in conflict and war. His images provide an insight into how life goes on when the world is literally falling apart around you, for example, the fisherman rowing past the half-sunken warship, or the women carrying their babies in one arm and ammunition in the other.

His Infidel series is based on time Tim spent with a group of American troops stationed in the very dangerous eastern Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. The series portrays the men on a day-to-day basis, and shows an intimate view of life between the wait and the battle: soldiers sleeping, playing, waiting, on patrol and joking. The one that haunts me the most is the one taken of a soldier standing against a wall, the background a little blurry, with a look of complete horror and exhaustion on his face. If I'm, not mistaken Tim won the World Press Photo of the Year award for this one.
Also, if you haven't seen Restrepo, the documentary on American soldiers posted in Afghanistan that Tim made with Sebastian Junger (nominated for an Oscar in 2011), then you must watch it.

I have so much admiration for people who willingly place themselves at the front line of danger in order to report it back to the rest of the world in the form of images and words. Without these people we would never get to see both the beauty and the atrocities that man can commit. In my opinion there is photography and then there is amazing photography - Tim was definitely one of those amazing photographers, every image telling a story or three. I wish he were still around to provide us with more amazing images.

Additional information:
Yossi Milo Gallery (245 Tenth Ave, NYC - between 24th & 25th streets)
Chris Hondros
NYT Parting Glance coverage

All images: Tim Hetherington/Panos Pictures

Richard Mosse - The Congo in infra-red film

Whenever I read a press release my usual first thought is "I wish I had written that!" immediately followed by "but why are they trying to sell me something I already own/know?". You can read the exhibition press release from the Jack Shainman Gallery HERE, it's well written and explains what Richard Mosse does to obtain all of the purple and pink hues. I will just talk about what I thought of the exhibition.

I had already seen a couple of Richard Mosse's prints and was intrigued to see more. They are nothing less than striking with the juxtaposition of violence (militia, guns and army) on top of a landscape that is coloured in warm pink, purple and red. Knowing what I know about the Congo, meaning the years and years of civil war, unrest, millions of deaths, poverty, systematic sexual violence and the guerrilla warfare tactics performed on civilians by multiple militias, makes these photos even more powerful. The Congo is DANGEROUS. For everyone. It's no wonder people don't care to talk about it, let alone go there on vacation. You only really venture into the Congo if you are a journalist intent on telling the truth about what happens inside the country, you work for a non-profit, or you have a sense of adventure which borders on the edge of self-destruction (see Joseph Conrad or, more recently, Tim Butcher). But without people like Richard Mosse, who actually go to this country and document what they see, no one would really see what the country actually looks like.

Tell me... How many of you reading this know that during this last week general elections were held in the Congo? That the Congo is the world's largest producer of cobalt ore, and a large producer of copper and diamonds? That with a strategic set up of public transportation and hydro-electric power the Congo could become a wealthy and powerful nation in Africa? But that since the late 80's, war and violence have created one of the poorest and most dangerous nations in the world (the numbers of deaths associated with these wars are around the 5 million mark).

The Congo is beautiful, extreme, huge and very daunting. More than luscious rain forests, waterways, mountains, always hot and humid, and raw. There are places where nobody lives, and places where you wouldn't think anybody could survive, but they do. You just have to look at Richard Mosse's landscape photos of the mountains that go on forever, with the grazing cows - seemingly peaceful images in a land of never-ending conflict.

I think my main question revolves around whether this is art or photo-journalism? In a sense isn't photo-journalism art too? Mosse uses a specific type of infrared-sensitive, false color reversal film called Kodak Aerochrome, that used to be used by the military to detect camouflage in green landscape (hence the fact that it turns the landscape into all these different hues). I don't know if he does any further editing on the photos once they are developed (I would like to know more about that part), but the end result is deeply striking. I just hope that these photographs can be considered as both art and photo-journalism, the former because they are so GOOD, and the latter because they depict a country where violence is the main form of communication and that the rest of the world doesn't really care about. Just look at his photo of the bombed out and abandoned UN building and think about it.

Richard Mosse's exhibition, Infra, is being displayed at the Jack Shainman Gallery until December 22nd. More information here: Jack Shainman Gallery

Richard Mosse Official Website

Kodak Aerochrome (discontinued)