Prev

Felicia Honkasalo

Next

Sjoerd Knibbeler

Artist Feature

Every week an artist is featured whose single image was published by Der Greif. The Feature shows the image in the original context of the series.

Francesca Catastini - The Modern Spirit is Vivisective

Jul 06, 2017

In 1641 British anatomist Francis Glisson delivered a discourse to introduce a series of public anatomies he gave at the Royal College of Surgeons in London. He presented anatomy as a three-stage investigation, whose aim is getting to know the structure, action and use of each single part of the body. But what I find particularly interesting in his speech is the distinction he makes between anatomy and dissection. According to him an anatomist is not such because of his manual skills, but because of his mental activity. Anatomy as a discipline was not only a manual practice, but above all a mental one; the hands being the instruments of the corporeal while the eyes the ones of the literally ideal.

The Modern Spirit is Vivisective ventures into the history of the study of anatomy, concentrating in particular on the phenomenon of public dissection, and taking anatomical theatres as its starting point. Public anatomies of executed convicts took place in specific theatres, called anatomical theatres, almost once a year, from the end of the XVI untill the XVIII century, in front of students, professors, dignitaries and paying audiences as well. These places, characterized by a perpetual accumulation of time, belong now to the realm of foucauldian heterotopias, reaching beyond their physical and temporal present.

Delving into architecture, both of the body and of the scene of inquiry, the work is also a reflection on the role of vision in the graph of power and knowledge in Western culture.

The former scopic geometry of these ancient anatomy halls responded to the logic of spectacle. The public was essential, as a collective witness of the mysteries of the human body. Gaze there acquired a specific status, framing a sort of unified perception, where both professionals and lay audiences shared the same view and the same experience.

The process of dissecting followed the logic of fragmentation, based on the analytical principle according to which the comprehension of an object goes through its decomposition into segments. In other words, public dissection was a practical and physical dismembering of a whole (the body) in order to get to a mental recomposition of it.

Knowledge is, above all, a mental activity.


Artist Blog

The blog of Der Greif is written entirely by the artists who have been invited to doing an Artist-Feature. Every week, we have a different author.

Until Death Do Us Part

Jul 12, 2017 - Francesca Catastini

I’m just a casual smoker, but each time that I buy cigarettes and I get the “smoking increases the risk of blindness” message, together with one of its warning photos, I smile. The main reason for such a reaction must be a personal form of stupidity, but I cannot avoid finding it a funny coincidence, as I work with images. This subtle complacency is probably due to a sort of atavistic tickling thrill one feels when thinking about what it seems to be a distant fear. It’s like a blind spot, you know it’s there, but since you cannot actually see what’s in there, the idea of risk just lingers at the back of your mind.

The fright of becoming blind has a strong grip on us, especially in our ocularcentric time, so, on a psychological level, it should be a good deterrent. Still, even among kids, the sentence “You’ll go blind if you keep playing with those” sounds as fake as Santa Claus…

I need to admit that each time I get one of those warning photos when I buy cigarettes, I always end up thinking of Thomas Sauvin’s Until Death Do Us PartA publication which, as its author put it, “pays homage to a tradition in which love and death walk hand in hand”. The work is the result of his extremely smart and accurate selection of negatives picturing cigarette-smoking games at Chinese weddings. Sprite bottle bongs and groom’s upper lip and nose cigarette holder are sequenced together with other images of odd and funny rituals involving newlywed couples. All edited and assembled by Sauvin in a pack of cigarette size book published by Jiazazhi.

As it often happens with rituals, these unusual traditions the author shows us, seem completely irrational, illogical and hilarious to the eye of an outside observer.  And again, that tickling mechanism… Each time I go through it, I smile.


Jo Broughton

Jul 11, 2017 - Francesca Catastini

I got to know Jo Broughton’s series Empty Porn Sets last year, thanks to Federica Chiocchetti (aka The Photocaptionist) and one of her curatorial endeavors, Feminine Masculine.

Jo documented empty porn sets photographing them when filming was over and everyone was gone. This series, shot from 1995 till 2007, draws up a catalogue of Western sexual fantasies with their load of kitsch and stereotypes. We don’t see any human beings, nor any actions involving them, but I guess all the details detectable in these images are more brutally candid than some actors caught while performing their roles.

One of the many things I find interesting of this work is a kind of “regression” one can trace in the design of these scenarios: pastel-coulored balloons, a classroom, pig pink walls and beds, a hospital room where to play doctor… There’s of course a strong typification and a reduction to basic clichés behind these fetishistic settings and it’s curious how adult films seem influenced in some ways by a sort of childish set of images.


Lilly Lulay

Jul 10, 2017 - Francesca Catastini

I met Lilly Lulay last January at Fotomuseum in Winterthur, during this year’s edition of Plat(t)form and I instantly liked her work.

Using different types of photographic images as her raw material, she dissects them into their bare elements of structure and colour, in order to investigate visual strata; questioning the social role played by photography and how the medium can affect our perception of the world.

She collects images coming from different archives and sources, like scientific books from the 1980s, private photo albums from the 1990s, or collective digital pictures from the present day. All images she employs represent very well a specific media epoch and their origin is strictly linked to the meaning of her work itself.

She currently has a few shows on, in Athens, Berlin and Bordeaux, plus a few others on their way, go and check her website and visit one of her exhibitions if you can!


Models, Open Letters, Prototypes, Supplements

Jul 09, 2017 - Francesca Catastini

Just a few days before it closed I managed to visit Christopher Williams’s exhibition at La Triennale di Milano, Models, Open Letters, Prototypes, Supplements, curated by Pia Bolognesi and Giulio Bursi.

One of the aspects which fascinates and amuses me the most of William’s exhibitions is that they perfectly echo the artist’s reflections and critics towards surface and appearance.  What it is, might not be what you see and nothing is simply itself. Giving a sneak peak from the entrance in fact one could think he is going to visit a straightforward exhibition of photography.

The photographic studio, which plays a key role in most of William’s production, is then mirrored by the exhibition space. Throughout the show there were areas of bright red paint and temporary walls, both listed in the handout together with the photographs, respectively as Signage (Cherry Red Stripe) and Wall designed and constructed by…

Is one’s seeing determined by what is seen, or vice versa, is what it is seen determined by one’s seeing?

In William’s case the context of course plays a fundamental role in the dynamics of perception. The viewer is confronted with this anti-illusionistic architecture of display, which sets the framework for looking and triggers a subtle shift in our understanding of things.


Andrea Ferrari

Jul 08, 2017 - Francesca Catastini

I met Andrea Ferrari last May in Reggio Emilia, during Fotografia Europea‘s opening weekend. His work Hidden Paper is part of Les nouveaux encyclopédistes, an exhibition curated by Joan Fontcuberta, unfortunately closing in a few days, so hurry up if you can!

On that occasion we also talked about books and I got his The pictures included in this envelope, published by Kehrer Verlang .

This work is a visual investigation into a series of objects belonging to an unknown Milanese chemist, Giulia C.

 

Ferrari uses photography as a sort of magnifying glass, to ponder on the very structure of (visual) language. Evidence here stands for something else, there is a surplus in what we see that eludes our perception of it. Borrowing Lacan’s words, the object which is repressed in the symbolic returns in the real.

Looking at books is an haptic experience. Page after page we see the author placing object after object. The act of photographing cannot be neutral in itself. Even when images are apparently so objective and direct, we should not forget that the act of seeing is determined by that of showing. And with Andrea Ferrari the act of showing is profoundly delicate, witty and involved.


Something about anniversaries – Saâdane Afif

Jul 07, 2017 - Francesca Catastini

One of the latest books I added to my shelves is Fountain-1917, Fontaine-1917, Fontäne 1917 , by French conceptual artist Saâdane Afif , published by b.frank books and NMNM.

Afif put together a sort of collection of 232 postcards picturing public fountains, all dated 1917, the same year in which Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain was submitted and rejected for the inaugural exhibition of the Society of Indipendent Artists.

Although they are presented in chronological order, according to their postmarks, this reiteration of a typology, the fountain, sets a different sense of time. As a result, looking at these postcards, we find ourselves comparing what Tacita Dean in her forward of the book calls  “the teenage years” of the XX century with the adolescence of our time.

At the core of a typological examination there is usually a desire to reduce things to their essential parts. But this doesn’t necessarily end up in a bone-dry analysis. Identifying structural patterns can actually set the framework for a dialectic discourse.

The whole net of connections these fountain images spun, converges in the title of the book and the shift between Duchamp’s work name and the way we call “a structure through which a stream of water is pumped into the air and falls down again”.

Pouring fountains in 1917 had already started losing their former function, to become, in most cases, essentially ornamental. In 2017 as well, we usually cannot drink from them, nor bathe in them, but we can look at them. Or, if you want to imitate Anita Ekberg in Rome, you simply need to pay a 240€ fine.