Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Trip to Juergen Teller's Exhibition 'Woo.' At The ICA Gallery, London.

On the 13th of March, my photography class went on a trip to two galleries to view two very different exhibitions. This was in hope that I would gain some inspiration from the work whether this be the subject matter, colours, enhancing ect. The first was the ICA gallery (Institute of Contemporary Arts) located near Charing Cross to see work by Juergen Teller in a temporary exhibition titled 'Woo.'
Juergen Teller borin in 1964, an artist and fashion photographer born in Germany. Teller gained wider recognition in 1996 with his front cover nudes of Kirsten McMenamy, an American model. His photographs have been used in The Face magasine, Vogue magasine and many more, they have featured Kate Moss, Vivienne Westwood and many more famous figures which many I saw in the exhibition.

The layout of the exhibition was quite strange, it consisted of a first room which was very large (10x5m approx.) and rather empty, the walls were all kept plain white which helped to keep the focus of the photographs themselves. The first thing I noticed was the contrast between 3 huge photographs (atleast 3x1.5m) which took up most the wall of Vivenne Westwood nudes and then next to them a much smaller photograph (2x1m approx) of a kitten looking all cute and fluffy, then when I turned around I saw another rather large photograph on a similar scale to the Westwood nudes of Kurt Cobain, the different between the two people was the fact his photograph was very casual and obviously hadn't been planned, he was wearing casual clothes playing his guitar and also looked quite unclean whereas Westwood was all done up in make-up and in a classy looking place of a palace sort of standard.
The next part of the exhibition I saw was up a few flights of spiraled stairs, the room consited of around 20 photographs, it was layed out in a similar way to the Westwood room except this room was quite enclosed. The subject matter was various, I have already noticed that it covers so many aspects, I could see a young man in his underpants standing with balloons, another by a toilet, a baby in a Motorhead baby grow, a girl standing in a lake with a gun, a family portrait in a sea, nudes of an anorexic female. I found it hard to link these together, the message I was getting from these photographs was that they almost presented a journey, a realistic approach to life, various things happy and sad, the old and the young, this is because there was no focus on one particular subject. I feel that the effect of this helped to make the intentionally shocking images more shocking, this is because I noticed a pattern, for example the baby photograph was next to the girl with the gun, it shows a huge contrast between young innocence and violence which is exaggerated by the positioning of the photographs. I also noticed that the photographs in here were all planned out, wether this be a costume that has been essential (man in underpants must have intentionally had these on as combining it with balloons isn't something that a photographer would casually capture or see), also the models used - the anorexic one gives the meaning and shock to the photograph, using someone of appropriate weight would take away this symbolic portrayal of shock. We also get a sense of rebellion from the baby in the Motorhead baby grow,which was intentional, as were the family portraits. I also noticed that each photograph has had minimal enhancements. The contrast and brightness had been increased to bring out the colours in their fullest and completely stand out and avoid dullness. Blurring and out of focus imagery has been completely avoided, I also did't notcie any black and white imagery or other colour filters. The photographs are all copyright prints from a digital camera. I can see that the series of 3 photographs of the anorexic girl has required the use of a tripod to keep each one framed in exactly the same way. The names and dates of the photographs were all written by the door to enter and exit, when I looked at them framed with plain glass I wondered where all the titles were and it took me a while to realise their placing. The names came as quite a surprise because of how random they were, for example I wouldn't have expected the girl with the gun to be called 'Lola's Birthday'.

'Lola's Birthday' was a photograph in this room that caught my eye because of the strange subject matter. Before I knew what the photograph was taken for I thought that the subject matter was quite strange, a young girl looking quite angry/unhappy standing in the middle of a lake with no one else present was strange because guns cause violence and she shouldn't have one. I then found out from research on the photoshoot that Lola is Teller's daughter and this photograph was taken in his pond on her 13th birthday, although the reasons why still remained unclear. I couldn't find the photograph I had seen in the gallery, it was a long shot with the whole pond in view but more photographs were taken of the same scene and below is a close up shot of her in the water but the gun is absent here.
I felt that the subject matter could go deeper and because of who she is isn't clear when we first glance at the photograph I interpreted it in a way that Teller was taking the photograph to give the impression that she wasn't able to see him, that he was creeping up on her and presenting a strange and unnerving situation. It could address social issues - the fact someone so young has a gun could be symbolising a danger to society. Also cultural issues because of the varying rules and ages set on the purchasing/owning of a gun. The photograph is treated realistically, although on the shot above it looks like it has been given a slightly olden vintage look to it the photograph in the gallery didn't emphasise the brown of the pond at all. It kept the olive green and grey shades of green realistic. As if it was trying to present exactly what the eye would see if the viewer were there themselves. No action is taking place, we wonder whether it has, we wonder of her story and why she has a gun. We wonder is this situation presenting something she shouldn't have done? Is her walking into a lake with a gun a sign of madness? She is wearing waders which shows that she has a purpose to be in the lake, is she bird shooting or hunting something in the trees around the lake?

The piece has been framed quite awkwardly, she is the focus of the photograph yet she isn't in the middle, she isn't aware of the shot being taken, the shot is a good 6m apporx. away from her so the framing is quite wide, as if someone is peering out of the bushes/leaves at her. I can't see a pattern in shapes, although I can see quite a rough texture created from the leaves taking up the majority of the photograph, different shades of plant are picked out, the photograph is perfectly in focus but we get a sense of it blurring because of the distance taking away each individual detail of each leave. Colour is an important formal element used in this because it gives a realistic view and uses a scheme of browns and greens (mainly greens), her clothing also matches this spectrum. Contrast has been increased to bring the colour out. The photographs arrangement is pleasing because of the way it gets you thinking because you feel you are in Teller's shoes taking the photograph in a sneaky way and can create a lot of narrative on why she is there.

The photograph has been planned because of the fact he has used his daughter, she is wearing waders and has needed a gun for this although it is made to look casual and spontaniously produced. The camera has a normal lens on it, in focus, quite a wide shot so maybe slightly widely angled. Lighting is natural rather than dramatic. It is a digital image rather than darkroom and the enhancements are kept minimal (contrast combined with brightness) and done digitally, perhaps photoshop.

This work effected me by being the photograph in this room that drew me the most because of the mysterious factor it had. It doesn't remind me of anything I have experienced before, it represents a story rather than a poem or literature work. The artists feelings when carrying out this work must have been quite relaxed as he was doing it with his daughter for personal reasons rather than buisness purposes. Words that I would use to describe this piece are silent, natural, mysterious, strange, green.

The last room that I saw was tiny compared to the last one, it was a perfect rectangle of about 4x3m. I think that the idea of the layout was to see this room first but I missed it, the doorway was so small and positioned in a secluded way that I didn't notice it. The walls in this room were completely covered with photographs, these weren't framed and spaced out like the above larger room. There was barely any white showing on the wall, each photograph was around A4 in size none were any bigger, some a bit smaller, they were stuck to the wall like wallpaper but clearly thin paper, as if they had intentionally been printed on lower quality paper than the above photographs. It was as if they had less value, bunched together rathe rthan giving their own space and framing, they were also untitled. I noticed the subject matter was much more grimy and raw than what I had already seen. I could see close up photographs of people private parts which had no identity, I could also see people rolling about naked in the most casual places. I could see celebrities such as William Dafoe, Kate Moss, Kate Winslet, various Marc Jacobs and Celine models and other perfume brand models with no make-up and looking like they are just at home casually where no one would usually see them, Dafoe was wearing a dressing gown, their glances were also all giving the impression that they were unaware of the photograph being taken. It was as if this room didn't present people in an attractive modelling way but instead had a raw reality to it, showing the unexpected. I felt that by seeing this room last it came as more of a shock, the above room was innocent comapred to this, it was slightly shocking so to have more extreme shock was the last thing I expected in here. Marilyn Manson and Dita von Teese can be seen in a sexual position, there are also many completely naked females rolling in mud and horrible looking liquids. I noticed that around these photographs were random photographs of animals for example a bull. I felt that this was quite symbolistic, it could represent people behaving in an animalistic way, the animals are obviously unclothed and in their habitats as are the humans, it is all kept unenhanced and natural. It photographs them as normal people at home rather than anyone special which is the brutal reality that this room symbolises. Helena Bonham Carter was also in the room looking quite messy, it changes the way we see celebrities and show them in a natural but grimy light. Ther eis a women yelling which is slightly blurry, the first photograph I have seen in this exhibition that has used a blur, it shows a lot of trapped emotion. There are also some photographs of raw meat which could represent the bare flesh underneath human and animal skin. To contrast this room to the other even more, I can see a baby photographed looking rather upset and distressed which is opposing to the happy baby photograph upstairs. Some subject matter in here really intrigued me - there was a polar bear in a house and an octupus on a bed. This shows animals in human locations which is unexpected, it is like a reversed subject matter of humans in animal habitats which would be symbolised by the women in the mud.
After coming to the end of the exhibiton I realised that the first three subjects photographed that you see (Kurt Cobain, a fluffy kitten, Vivienne Westwood), could be a brief outline of everything to expect within. WHich includes cute things, people involved with music as Cobain was, nudes, modelling, random unplanned locations and classy shoots. Also to expect anything. I really liked this visit, it wasn't what I'd expected and it wasn't like anything I had ever seen before, although first of all everything looks random and irrelevant, the opinion changes when you see the reality presented and the symbolic ways Teller has done this. The layout shows that framing and spacing give a classy feel to it whereas the little room stripped all of this away and kept everything as naked as possible in terms of looking at his work and not any framing or enhancements. It is like a big montage of everything he has photographed on the more contemporary side. If these photographs were seen 20 years ago the shock factor would be much higher, it shows what has evolved and became more normal and seen as much more exceptable compared to the older days.

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