AfterMichaelMandiberg.com

This is the next phase in the artistic development of Walker Evans’ photographic record of Alabama in 1936 - Created by Phil Hackett in 2014

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Allie Mae (AfterMichaelMandiberg.com) by Phil Hackett

In 1936 Walker Evans photographed the Burroughs, a family of share-croppers in Depression era Alabama.

In the years of the Great American Depression of 1935-36, the Missouri-born photographer, Walker Evans (1903-1975), embarked on a photographic project that would produce some of the most iconic images in the history of photography.  Evans was employed as an ‘Information Specialist’ in President Franklin D Roosevelt’s Resettlement (later Farm Security) Administration. He was commissioned alongside other eminent photographers of the time (Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein) to record the work of the FSA’s rehabilitation programme, as well as to document the daily lives of farmers and flood victims. (Southbank, Unknown)

He travelled to Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina photographing churches, graveyards, busy streets, shops, cafes, signs and billboards as well as making more intimate portraits of family life. He also recorded interiors and exteriors of sharecroppers’ homes, group portraits and the famous close-up portraits of the Burroughs family. These disquieting, provocative images are seen by many as the culmination of Evans’ photographic career, capturing the expressions of the weak and vulnerable and showing the fragility of their existence. His work bears witness to the realities faced by Depression-era communities in the Deep South. (Southbank, Unknown)

These images along with many others were produced in a widely distributed published exhibition catalogue by Walker Evans called “First and Last” in 1978.

In 1979 Sherrie Levine rephotographed Walker Evans’ photographs from the exhibition catalogue “First and Last” (Evans, 1978: 72-81).

Sherrie Levine’s post-modern assertion is that one could rephotograph an image and create something new in the process, she critiques the modernist notion of originality which the theorist Walter Benjamin, who explored the relationship of reproduction and artistic authenticity, argues that a reproduction becomes the authentic experience. (Mandiberg, 2001)

Walter Benjamin also argued that reproduction destroyed the physical sacredness of the original object, and made it useful to those who could not own such objects. Levine, on the other hand, has made her object even more sacred as her work is much harder to find than Evans’ originals – in fact they are almost never reproduced, and exists only in museums and private collections. She avoids publicity and reproduction of her own images ostensibly to avoid “myth-making” yet this lack of information creates exactly what she is attempting to avoid — anonymity creates attention and a type of artist ego, it doesn’t efface this, (Mandiberg, 2001) the ‘myth’ has been ‘made’.

In 2001 Michael Mandiberg scanned the same photographs as Levine and created AfterWalkerEvans.com and AfterSherrieLevine.com.

Mandiberg’s approach was to create a search engine browsable on-line gallery with links to high-resolution exhibition-quality downloads, along with a certificate of authenticity for each work, including directions on how to frame the image so that it will fulfil the requirements of the certificate of authenticity, which once printed and signed by yourself, confirms that you are the official authenticated owner of the work.

By building URL’s into the image title – the Evans/Levine/Mandiberg images become easily locatable and downloadable by anyone who sees or reads about the work. By distributing the images on-line with certificates of authenticity, they become accessible and ownable by anyone. The authentication certificates are used to insure that each satellite image be considered with equal authenticity, not the opposite. This is an explicit strategy by Mandiberg to create a physical object with cultural value, but little or no economic value.

In 2001 Kendall Bruns downloaded Mandiberg’s sites AfterSherrieLevine.com and AfterWalkerEvans.com, and created his version of AfterMichaelMandiberg.com to give a greater demonstration of the extent to which media is known and distributed in this digital age. At some point after this date the web hosting of the site lapsed, in an e-mail conversation he told Hackett “I don’t specifically remember deciding to not keep the site up but I must have let it lapse at some point. Maybe it’s fitting because we feel like all of this digital information we’re creating will be around forever but in reality it needs maintenance and attention just like anything else to survive.” (Bruns, 2014)

In 2012 Mandiberg made the photographs from “First and Last” ‘QRcode’ scannable, and created the tumblr blog AfterMichaelMandiberg [linked to the QR codes] to facilitate their dissemination. He states that “This is both: as a critique, and a collaboration, to use Levine’s own phrase. By ‘blogging’ these images, I am bringing her critique into the digital age: one is increasingly likely to see (Evans’) images on a computer screen, and not in a text book; similarly the tools of image production have shifted to digital media.” (Mandiberg, 2012)

In 2014 Phil Hackett created a series of limited edition prints from Mandiberg’s downloadable images which are now marketed for sale here on AfterMichaelMandiberg.com with all profits going to the AlabamaPossible charity, to support their Alabama Poverty Project.

Hackett’s approach is to take these multi appropriated images from Walker Evans’ originals direct from AfterSherrieLevine.com to produce a series of limited edition screen prints that are available to purchase direct from the artist.

Each image has been downloaded to the specifications instructed by Mandiberg, then re-scanned, contrast adjusted and reappropriated as a set of beautiful high contrast limited edition screen prints. As it is seventy seven years since the original photographs were taken, Hackett has produced each print with a limited edition run that adds up to seventy seven limited edition prints in total from the Mandiberg images.

With AfterMichaelMandiberg.com Hackett has created an appropriation paradox. Producing an appropriated piece of work in the web site however the prints produced are unique pieces of art created from the unaltered but appropriated originals. Hackett has given the Evans/Levine/Mandiberg images a new economic value and by adding to their story, increasing their timeline and their distribution he has added to their cultural value; by limiting their availability and offering them for sale (all profits going to charity) this next phase of Walker Evans’ photographic works from Alabama, both support and counter Benjamin’s arguments on mechanical reproduction; and Levine’s argument that an appropriated piece is a new piece of work; and Benjamin’s argument that an appropriated piece has less value than the original piece of work; and Mandiberg’s argument that by producing them on-line the appropriated works maintain a cultural value but little or no economic value.

AfterMichaelMandiberg.com and AfterKendallBruns.com and the limited edition prints produced by Hackett sold on them, are both appropriated and unique, have a cultural and an economic value that is unrelated to the original appropriated works and as a limited run have converted what Mandiberg considers “Open Source” into commodities that can be bought, owned, sold etc.

If you would like to purchase one of the 77 limited edition prints, please contact the artist direct here.

N.B. A vast proportion of the text in this article is appropriated by the artist from the following sources.

Timeline

In 1936 Walker Evans photographed the Burroughs, a family of share-croppers in depression era Alabama, USA. To document the daily lives of farmers and flood victims as part of the Farm Security Administration’s rehabilitation programme.

1978 Walker Evans produced an Exhibition Catalogue called “First and Last”

1979 Sherrie Levine rephotographed Evans’ photographs from the publication “First and Last” and named them ‘After Walker Evans’

2001 Michael Mandiberg scanned the same photographs as Levine and created AfterSherrieLevine.com and AfterWalkerEvans.com

2001 Kendall Bruns copied Mandiberg’s web sites and created AfterMichaelMandiberg.com

2012 Michael Mandiberg created AfterMichaelMandiberg on tumblr

2014 Phil Hackett downloaded the Mandiberg images from AfterSherrieLevine.com and created a series of limited edition prints which are now marketed for sale here on AfterMichaelMandiberg.com and AfterKendallBruns.com with all profits going to the AlabamaPossible charity, to support their Alabama Poverty Project.

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Roll Call by Phil Hackett in response to Facing Extinction – Gustav Metzger Exhibition

My involvement in the Facing Extinction, Gustav Metzger exhibition at the James Hockey Gallery, Foyer Gallery and Linear Gallery at UCA, Farnham, England.

Roll Call by Phil Hackett

A rolling mass of throwaway paper, each centimetre representing the number of species currently identified as being endangered in the eleven regions/continents of the world as designated by Endangered Earth.

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Facing Extinction, The Exhibition, Fine Art Student Responses

Facing Extinction, The Exhibition, Fine Art Student Responses.

Mine and my fellow artist’s response to the Facing Extinction – Gustav Metzger exhibition at UCA until the 7th of April 2014.

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Big Blue Cock – Un Monumental (Art Review)

July 2013 to January 2015, The Fourth Plinth Trafalgar Square, London.

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Hahn/Cock is a sculpture of a giant blue cockerel by the German artist Katharina Fritsch that currently occupies the fourth plinth at Trafalgar Square.

It is a gleeful feminist sculpture, poking amiable fun at the vainglorious monuments of DWM (dead white men; like Lord Nelson, George IV, and Generals Havelock and Napier) that surround it in this most imperial and public of British spaces. “Humour is always a big thing for me. It stops things from becoming too severe. I like English humour as it is so often very dark.” (Fritsch, 2013)

The Thorney Island Society, a local conservation group, objected to the sculpture on the grounds that it was “unrelated to the context of Trafalgar Square and adds nothing to it but a feeble distraction”, but The Guardian’s chief arts writer pointed out that Fritsch’s other works have a habit of appearing fanciful, dramatic and unrelated to their contexts “one should not overthink it. It’s a big, blue, funny, weird, surreal bird in Trafalgar Square. It’s going to cheer us all up. Katharina’s Cock, as I like to think of it, should be a hit.” (Higgins, 2013)

Katharina’s Cock captures popular imagination and public support because of its immediate appeal and joyful snub at the masculine environment in the square whilst also becoming a focal point for discussions about the place of contemporary art in public spaces, making it relational and participatory, it is both monumental and un-monumental, it is a site specific piece and yet is also non site specific.

The fourth plinth, is in the square’s north-west corner of Trafalgar Square. Built in 1841, it was designed to hold an equestrian statue – like its twin, in the northeast corner that depicts George IV but funds ran out and it remained empty until in 1998 the first in a series of temporary sculptures for the plinth were commissioned. Works by Rachel Whiteread, Yinka Shonibare, Mark Wallinger and Antony Gormley are among those to have occupied the space previously.

Hahn/Cock, which was selected by the Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group (a body that includes artists Grayson Perry and Jeremy Deller), occupies Trafalgar Square for 18 months.

Quote Source:

Q.1 http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/jul/25/big-blue-cock-trafalgar-square

Q.2 http://www.theguardian.com/culture/charlottehigginsblog/2013/may/01/art-sculpture

Image Source:

Fig. 1 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/ca/Hahn-Cock.jpg

Additional Information:

Dead White Men: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_white_men

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Exhibition Review, Tim Stoner, Purdy Hicks Gallery, London

Groupthink Exhibition, 11th September – 5th October 2013

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Fig. 1Bikinis, 2013. Charcoal on paper, 56.5cm x 76cm

Stoner is a British artist, born in 1970, a prolific group exhibition contributor, this exhibition at Purdy Hicks is one of very few solo exhibitions Stoner has had to date. The exhibition is of finished works on paper and according to the exhibition information sheet they ‘reflect how the human unit and group bonding co-exist within forms of folk culture, vernacular media and the imagination.’

For me I feel Stoner is attracted to capturing the human desire, the human need to interact, operate and undertake activities in groups, and/or how the presence of peer pressure and group dynamics can change the actions and even the moral outlook of the individual.

Everything from beauty contests, dancing troupes, family photographs, funerals, marching demonstrators and Nazi soldiers are represented in these works. The exhibition space was not solely occupied by Stoner’s work however he had the entrance wall and the front section of the gallery space, giving you the impression that it was a solo exhibition.

‘Bikinis’ (Fig. 1) is what first attracted me to view Stoner’s work, it is reminiscent of a lithographic piece (a favourite of mine) by Otto Mueller ‘Three Girls in Profile’ (1921) and has for all its vacancy and lack of detail a real sense of capturing the moment. It is a quick sketch, slightly naïve, as is all of Stoner’s work; that gives the impression that he was there, capturing the moment in just a few short brief marks of his charcoal.

It is fascinating to see this process adapted and utilised in various mediums, oil paint, watercolours and various crayons and chalk are all used, all on paper. The use of silhouettes, vague detail and naïve marks, enables you as the subject to create your own story of what is happening in the art works, and yet there are also discernible elements, identifiable that ensure that the original source, the group story that Stoner is attempting to tell is always part of your own interpretation.

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Fig. 2 Rah-Rah, 2013. Oil on paper, 33cm x 51cm.

“The subject of Stoner’s work is light, and how painting both creates an illusory space and destroys it with its flatness. The figures imply movement and rhythm, but in painting this is impossible. The dance in painting – think Poussin, Renoir and Matisse – is always about this paradox between immobility and movement, time and timelessness. It is all just an accretion on the surface. What complex paintings they are. They make you realise what a rich, deceptive, unfinished business painting is.” (Searle, 2013)

Stoner’s work is both personal and anonymous, showing details that become clear because they are rendered with an ethereal surface, the moments captured are both real and imaginary, fairytale and reality. It makes us question what we do when we are alone that we wouldn’t do in a group, what we are willing to do or become part of when the group dynamic takes us along, or the peer pressure grows to the point where our individuality is questioned by our own judgment.

Stoner’s work is exhibited simply, with little interpretational information, leaving the viewer to spend time with his work, observing the images from our past or our possible future. ‘George Orwell described a world of Groupthink in his novel 1984, where non-subversion is described as an act of complicity, generating a force that drives humanity into the arms of totalitarianism.’

Quote Sources:

Q. 1 Searle, Andrew (2013) [The Guardian, Art Review] (Text) at http://www.timstoner.co.uk/www.timstoner.co.uk/About.html (Accessed on the 11.01.14)

Q. 2 Hicks, Purdy (2013) [Gallery Exhibition Information] (Text) at http://www.artlyst.com/events/tim-stoner-purdy-hicks (Accessed on the 11.01.14)

Image Sources:

Fig. 1 http://www.wsimagazine.com/multimedia/5522/5522.jpg

Fig. 2 http://www.artlyst.com/img/events/10017.jpg

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