Archive for February, 2011

Ruff Out There

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

It used to be so easy. Just cock the spring shutter and trigger the release…  Nowadays it’s all cables and computers, preview screens and profiles. Occasionally though, usually by complete accident, all that technical wizardry produces a little spontaneous magic of its own.

Here’s me and Phase One making a hash of Moneo’s Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles.

Appraising the results however, makes me think there might be very little difference between high art and and a total screw up, other than a fabulous curatorial essay.

Here’s Thomas Ruff making a hash art of Mies Van der Rohe’s Bauhaus House. In this case, Ruff didn’t actually take the original image. Rather, he appropriated the original image from archival material.

In a 2001 interview with Ronald Jones that appeared in Artforum, Ruff explained “So I began shooting those buildings too, but I couldn’t photograph all of them–some were obstructed by trees or by traffic and parked cars. So another mode appeared: using archival material. At first I thought I might hand-color some old black-and white prints, but in the end I did all the alterations on the computer.”

w.h.s. 01, Bauhaus House, from the L.M.V.D.R. Series, 2000/2004 ©Thomas Ruff


d.b.p.02, Barcelona Pavillion, from the L.M.V.D.R. Series, 2000/2004  ©Thomas Ruff

Actual Art Speak – “He interferes with the stark neutrality of certain of his architectural photos with more painterly versions of the same building, while his use of blurring effects, whether produced with the lens or computer manipulation, triggers an association with the photographically realist paintings of artists such as Gerhard Richter.” Tate Magazine online.

Technical Error.

Fictional Art Speak – As part of an ongoing personal exploration into the perceived veracity of digital recording, the artist has purposefully intervened in the process to corrupt the accepted methodology of high resolution digital capture, highlighting the inherent instability and potential inaccuracies of the medium we, as a culture, hold to represent the truth. This deep-seated distrust of accepted societal norms references back to the artists’s early childhood when he, after drinking a glass of milk and despite being told it could not be done, was unexpectedly able to issue forth streams of milk from his nose while being tickled.

Actual Fact  – I hit the wrong button at the wrong time and the pixel wells were exposed again as the initial signals were draining from the chip. D’oh!

Further from Artforum interview, Ruff continues…

“In this way, I have tried to do a contemporary-art exhibition about architecture from the past, using every technique available to contemporary photography. The computer is a great new tool for photography, an extension of the darkroom, allowing you to alter color, resolution, parts of the image, or even the whole thing. For the Krefeld show I was playing with issues surrounding the documentary aspects of architectural photography. What was in front of the camera is not what you see in the images, because I altered about 90 percent of them. In some I took out the color and made a new sky. In one there appears to be a ghost (is it Mies?), which was originally a bad exposure that I guided into an intention, let’s say.”

Looking back through my very own archives and guided, let’s say, by whimsical intention, I too sought to find some art amongst the digital trash.

Wrecked  Richter 2008  ©Tim Griffith

Miro Miro on the Wall 2010  ©Tim Griffith

Frozen Fishsticks 2010  ©Tim Griffith

Griffimoto DNA II Series 2008  ©Tim Griffith

The Elusive Striped Zebra 2009  ©Tim Griffith

100 on the Richter Scale 2005  ©Tim Griffith

Pointless III  2008    ©Tim Griffith

Pointless IV  2011    ©Tim Griffith

Day of the Spackle*

Friday, February 11th, 2011

It’s not everyday your tripod throws a literal wobbly and requires a makeshift repair. Of course it had to be the day I’d ventured further above the ground than ever before. Fortunately, I was able to find a makeshift solution amongst the army of contractors still prowling the upper reaches of the tower to get myself temporarily tightened up.

The only potential downside to this solution was brought home later in the day when we descended to ground level, smack into the middle of a star-studded concert taking place around the adjacent lakeside. Royal attendance meant that security was extremely visible and extremely tight. Visions of Edward Fox flashed across my mind and I’ve never felt more aware of carrying an ambiguously set tripod as when we made our way through the swelling crowds to the car park.

Fortunately, we were the only ones who got off a successful shot that day.

*Spackle – a temporary filler

Twist and Shout

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Designed by Aedas, the U-Bora tower sits head and shoulders above its immediate neighbours in Dubai’s Business Bay district.  From some angles, the form of the 58 story tower appears benignly conservative.

From others, it becomes a boisterous eruption from desert floor, challenging your understanding of what should and perhaps shouldn’t stand up.

Debt Spiral

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Sitting within the sea of high rise developments that is Dubai Marina, Skidmore Owings & Merrill’s Infinity Tower is rapidly taking shape. And what a shape it is. Over the length of its 73 floors, the building rotates a full 90 degrees.

Perhaps, in step with Dubai’s own reassessing of its financial stability, the higher floors of the Infinity Tower  provide  an opportunity to change your outlook on life as your debt increases.

Checking the Index

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

No, honestly… this really is a view looking up The Index. This 80 storey Foster + Partners designed tower sits just off Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai, not far from the Burj Khalifa. The lower 25 stories are planned as office space, the upper 47 stories a residential.

Sands of Tim

Monday, February 7th, 2011

While waiting for the requisite permits for our Dubai shoots we took the opportunity to head out of town into the rugged mountains of neighbouring Oman. The rockiness of the harsh terrain was mesmerising. Between the peaks, deep ravines provided passage for the spring run offs, pooling occasionally to create lush, sheltered waterholes that would last through the summer heat.

The journey back to Dubai led us back through a series of big dunes just as the afternoon sun started carving gorgeous shadows through the sea of sand.


Saturday, February 5th, 2011

When spending most of the day in the Pergamon, a vague sense of familiarity crept in as I moved through the various spaces, as if I had been there before, somehow seen it before. Putting zwei und zwei together , I came up with Thomas Struth, whose images I had seen in a collection of German photography, mostly from the Becher-inspired Dusseldorf school. Using large format film cameras, Struth had undertaken a series of images made within prominent galleries and museums around the world, re-purposing the art itself to serve as a backdrop against which we, the viewer, can question the way in which art is viewed. Or so the supporting text implied.

Walking into the adjacent Alte Museum later that day, it wasn’t hard at all to slip into the same headspace.

At the Tate Modern in London a few days later, I’d about had my fill of Dusseldorf devotees but couldn’t pass on a chance to Struth a Struth. Armed with little more than an iPhone (and these days, who needs more than that to be a bona fide artist?) I took my best shot.

Appropriating the creative work of others in one’s own output seems to be as popular as ever these days, so feeling kind of short on inspiration myself, I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon. I hear some guy named Richard Prince does quite well pursuing this kind of artistic process. Well, at least until a recent legal ruling by a judge deemed this sort of thing more akin to theft. But more on that later….

Babble On

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

The highlight of the time in Berlin was definitely the amazing Pergamon Museum. What an extraordinary collection, with every room offering new insights into some of the world’s earliest civilizations. Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian….amazing!. Equally extraordinary was the comprehensive audio tour which related, in sometimes excruciating detail, the fascinating history surrounding the objects on display. Thankfully the pause button offered some respite from the information overload.The scale of some exhibits was overwhelming with complete building facades reconstructed, often from thousands of individual pieces.

This image, taken by Thomas Struth (more on him later) shows the Pergamon Altar. This is the first thing you as you enter the museum and it somewhat sets the tone for the rest of the visit.

For me, one of the most impressive exhibits was a reconstruction of the 6th century BC Ishtar Gate from Babylon.

Taking many years to reassemble, this enormous series of gates and precessional walls holds a rich variety of decorative panels. Apparently there’s an even larger portion of the main gate that cannot be completed because it simply won’t fit in the room.

Über Cool

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Es ist kalt.

Those few remaining words of my high school German kept flashing through my brain as I walked through the sub zero streets of Berlin. Granted, we were mostly just hopping between museums but after the warm winter in California, the switch in climates was taking its toll.

The total absence of shadows was perplexing at first but eventually lent a surreal pictorial quality to the impressive streetscapes.

Adjacent to the Brandenburg Gate, the quiet solemnity of Peter Eisenman’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe was a moving start to the day. Somehow the softness of the light, the mournful lack of texture on the undulating blocks of stone, played beautifully against the icy details on the distant trees of the Tiergarten. I could have stayed there all day, wandering through the columns of stone, altering my perspective on the world with each new step.

But es ist kalt, es ist sehr, sehr kalt.