February 28, 2010

Grateful Dead: Deep Elem Blues

I've just arrived back in Adelaide from the holiday/photography trip in Tasmania I came across this article on the Grateful Dead by Joshua Green in The Atlantic.

The Grateful Dead's version of Deep Elem Blues which they played from their earliest days up till 1983:

What is of interest is Green's observation that the band understood that in the information economy the best way to raise demand for your product is to give it away.

Giving something away and earning money on the periphery is the same idea proffered by Wired editor Chris Anderson in his recent best-selling book, Free: The Future of a Radical Price. Voluntarily or otherwise, it is becoming the blueprint for more and more companies doing business on the Internet. Today, everybody is intensely interested in understanding how communities form across distances, because that’s what happens online.

The Grateful Dead in allowing their fans to tape and trade their concerts freely created a gigantic fan base, which in turn, generated a cash flow for them.

A funky big band version Deep Elem Blues by the Levon Helm Band in 2008:

It's good to see Levon Helm still making music, even if he still relies heavily on the The Band's back catalogue.

Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:58 PM | TrackBack

February 26, 2010

Tasmania: logging and wilderness

Given the recently discovered importance and significance of Reserche Bay as a site for wilderness preservation in Tasmania I was surprised to stumble upon spaces such as this amongst the rain forest:

10February20_Tasmania_065.jpg Gary Sauer-Thompson, stump, Recherche Bay, 2010

This is one aspect of the settler or pioneer history of British settlement and frontier industry in Tasmania. There are saw mill sites, sawdust heaps, discarded machinery, tramways, wharves and house areas--along with the clear felled spaces amidst the native rain forest and wilderness. Hence the idea of natural and cultural heritage--- world heritage based on the natural landscape been modified through the various industrial and occupational activities.

John Mulvaney writes in The axe had never sounded’: place, people and heritage of Recherche Bay, Tasmania about a cultural landscape:

Australians came late to the realisation that their natural environment and the historical imprint of past generations upon the landscape were valued possessions to treasure. Such features comprised not only material traces, such as forests, geological monuments, buildings, ruins or archaeological sites, but also intangibles associated with past persons or events, symbolic of ideas, memory or spirituality.
Such intangible or non-material factors present alternative considerations, additional to potential economic development or that overworked catch-cry of ‘jobs’. When carefully assessed, these valued places may provide different opportunities for employment or development, such as tourism. Even when they cannot, once-off economic investment or temporary employment should not be the sole criterion in a balanced approach to Australia’s long-term cultural or ecological future.

It adds that Recherche Bay is a cultural landscape. Although it was known as the French landing place, its role in providing a palimpsest of Tasmanian history was neglected until recently. It was the reported discovery of Delahaye’s 1792 garden, in January 2003, that highlighted the potential significance of the area. Whether it really was the garden became less important when historical sources were consulted on the totality of the French visits. He adds that:
The French expedition undertook scientific studies, while subsequent European activities across almost two centuries left imprints upon the landscape, although often concealed beneath vegetation. It is important to stress that my reaction, and that of most people, was not an attack upon the forest industry or the rights of landowners. It simply was that this small area was too significant to destroy.

As expected the Tasmanian Government was resistant to this idea because it meant that logging had to cess.

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February 22, 2010

in Tasmania: Recherche Bay

If Cradle Mountain was a real eye opener as a mass tourist icon, then the Southwest National Park was a delight; especially around Recherche Bay. This is wilderness that deserves to be preserved from development in the form of logging.

Only Recherche Bay is not wilderness. It has a cultural history of French discovery, scientific expeditions and encounters with the aboriginal population and private landholding of the land that dates back to the early twentieth century, if not earlier. It is a cultural landscape.

10February19_Tasmania_046.jpg Gary Sauer-Thompson, hut, Recherche Bay, 2010

The private land exists outside the national park which is a popular camping site for Tasmanians. During the 1830s and 1840s it was the site of a bay whaling station he main commercial activities in the later 1800s and into the early 1900s were timber-gathering and coal mining.

The history of this part of rural Australia has been a boom and bust story of employment, as rural industries prosper then fold.

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February 17, 2010

in Tasmania: Cradle Mountain

I'm currently staying in a wilderness lodge----Lemonthyme Lodge --- in the rainforest adjacent to the iconic Cradle Mountain National Park, which I will visit and explore today. If the pre-paidmobile broadband is working a treat, then photographing the wilderness sure is difficult.

The rain forest is messy, there is a monochrome greenness to everything, the sunlight in the dark spaces makes conditions difficult, and it is to hard lugging medium format camera's and heavy tripods for hours on end. I'm just not set up for this kind of photography.

10February13_holidays_024.jpg Gary Sauer-Thompson, fungi, Franklin-Gordon National Park, 2010

My initial solution is to concentrate on detail in the more open areas of the rain forest.The second solution is to explore a space that is easily accessible so that I can walk in with the medium format camera's and heavy tripods. The third solution is to use a digital camera when walking sections of the Overland Track.

There was a Wilderness Photographic Gallery just outside the Cradle Mountain National Park that showcases the work of contemporary wilderness photographers.

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February 16, 2010

in Tasmania: Tunbridge

Tunbridge is in the Midlands, which lie due east of the Great Western Tier. Suzanne's sister Barbara and her husband Malcolm, who are from Brisbane are restoring a Georgian store as a 10 year project.

10February15_holidays_070.jpg Gary Sauer-Thompson, Georgian store, Tunbridge, Tasmania, 2010

The Midlands around Tunbridge is an agricultural district of crops and grazing that is earmarked to be upgraded to irrigation agriculture in Jonathan West's Report for the Australian Innovation Research Centre at the University of Tasmania entitled ----An Innovation Strategy for Tasmania A New Vision for Economic Development.

I'm not sure that farmers of the area are ready to switch to irrigated crops or that they skills needed to do so.

10February14_holidays_054.jpg Gary Sauer-Thompson, lagoon or lake, Tunbridge, Tasmania, 2010

It was raining in Tunbridge--the driest part of Tasmania --whereas in Queenstown, one of the wetest areas, it was very dry.

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February 15, 2010

in Tasmania: wilderness

Queensland, a mining town, is surrounded by wilderness---the South-West Wilderness is world heritage---and is home to some wilderness photographers such as Ivan Stringer. Roslynn D. Haynes, in Tasmanian Visions: Landscapes in Writing, Art and Photography explores the idea of wilderness that arose in opposition to the threats to the existence of wild rivers and old- growth forests from dams, mining, logging and other forms of commercial exploitation.

10February11_107.jpg Gary Sauer-Thompson, Iron Blow Mine, 2010

Haynes says:

As in the case of the desert, a vital role in the popularization of wilderness was played by artists, notably photographers. Like the flat expanse of the desert, most of the dense rainforest was un-paintable – for different reasons. There was too much of it, too close, too crowded. Unless you could position yourself on the other side of a handy lake – as Piguenit characteristically did, and as the Lake Pedder artists and photographers did, you would have enormous difficulty composing a landscape in traditional artistic terms. We needed Olegas Truchanas and even more Peter Dombrovskis, to invent a new way of depicting wilderness. We have now come to accept their new visual codes and conventions, so that a detail – a fern frond, a fungus, a single tree and of course, most famously, Rock Island Bend on the Franklin – can stand for the imagined whole. Without these images wilderness would never have secured the hearts and minds of Australia.

This definition of wilderness excludes the active presence of human beings to preserve its pristine state even though aborigines have preceded the settlers and hikers and photographers walk through wilderness.

Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:48 AM | TrackBack

February 11, 2010

in Tasmania: exploring Queenstown

I have spent the day taking photographs in and around Queenstown and the Iron Blow open cut mine whilst Suzanne explored the Gordon River on an afternoon river cruise.

Queenstown hasn't changed much from when I was here in 2006. It is still a mining town:-- Vendanta Resources now own the Mt. Lyell copper mine. They have have a strong Indian connection re copper mining. The King River is still dead. The Queen River is still polluted.

However, the vegetation on the denuded hills is now slowing regrowing:

10February10_050.jpg Gary Sauer-Thompson, Queenstown 2006

Whilst there I came across Raymond Arnold, an Australian artist/printmaker, who established Landscape Art Research Queenstown [LARQ], a non-profit studio/gallery in 2006. He threw in a lecturing job at the University of Tasmania to set up LARQ.

LARQ’s main intent is to develop a ‘wilderness’ art space with an imbedded residency program that will become a nest for incubation for his own art practice and that of others in response to the natural and heritage values inherent in the region.

ArnoldRwesternriverecology.jpg Raymond Arnold, Western Mountain Ecology - The relationship between things rather than the things themselves, 2006, Acrylic on canvas (diptych)

LARQ is an artist run initiative which focuses on the western region of Tasmania. It hosts international artist residencies, curates exhibitions, manages workshops, and gallery talks. It offers something positive to a town that had been on a downward spiral as late as 2006, when we last visited.

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February 9, 2010

in Tasmania: Strahan

We are in Tasmania----we arrived in Devonport early this morning. We then drove down to Strahan on the west Coast via Cradle Mountain after I got Telstra prepaid mobile broadband working on an Apple MacBook in Devonport

10February08_004.jpg Gary Sauer-Thompson, chairs, Bordertown, SA

Tasmania looks so dry. They've had little rain. And it is hot, just like Adelaide and Melbourne. Strahan looks rather tacky---as if it has suffered from the global financial crisis re the down turn in international tourism. There are lots of places for sale and empty cleared blocks. However, currently there is little surplus accommodation.

10February10_002.jpg Gary Sauer-Thompson, abstract, Strahan

Since Suzanne prefers Strahan to Queenstown, it looks as if Strahan will be our base for several days. So I will make daily photographic trips to Queenstown to explore the architecture and the denuded landscape from the old Mt Lyell mine.

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February 7, 2010

at Petrel Cove

We started the road trip to Tasmania when we left Victor Harbor around 6pm tonight. I spent the morning setting up the Sinar 8x10 on a studio stand at Encounter Studio and the afternoon re-learning how to load sheet film for the Linhof Technika 5x4, which I am taking with me to Tasmania.

I've since learnt that I'd been sold colour transparency sheet film --Ektachrome 100 --rather than colour negative film I'd wanted. Oh dear.

at Petrel Cove, originally uploaded by poodly.

We are in the apartment in Adelaide tonight and we leave for Melbourne very early tomorrow morning. We need to make the night ferry to Tasmania which arrives in Devonport early Tuesday morning.

I will endeavour to get pre-paid mobile broadband from the Telstra shop in Devonport on Tuesday morning so that I can continue to post as I travel.

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February 6, 2010

photography + history

I'm preparing for a photographic road trip to Tasmania, starting Monday morning. It covers similar territory to my last trip that was done in 2006. But we are staying longer this time.

As a result I've begun to think about the intersection between photography and history, in a way that is outside the modernist history of photography that is marked by various, increasingly elaborate attempts to distinguish art photography from commercial and amateur productions; and from the documentary photography in bureaucratic institutions such as the police station, the insane asylum, the school and the prison.

lion, Chinatown.jpg Gary Sauer-Thompson, China Town, Adelaide, 2010

For Walter Benjamin, the modern perception of "history" is inevitably experienced in a way that can only be described as photographic, partaking of photography's instantaneity and immediacy, its flash-like character, illuminative powers, its appearance as a fragment or temporal shard, its ambiguous status as both an image suspended in an ever-present and a concrete artifact of the past.

Eduardo Cadava in Words of Light: Theses on the Photography of History says "that photographic technology belongs to the physiognomy of historical thought means that there can be no thinking of history that is not at the same time a thinking of photography". Photography requires us to think about the impact of history on language as there is no word or image that is not haunted by history; or that history cannot occur without the event of language.

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February 4, 2010

NZ photography: Andrew Ross

When I lived in Wellington New Zealand I stayed in Hataitai close to, and in the shadow of, Mt Victoria. I used to walked around Evans Bay Parade that ran along the harbor's edge to the CBD. It was in Wellington that I started taking photographs and occasionally I would venture into Newton on a photographic trip.

I didn't have much idea of what I was doing at the time, but I've often wondered if those photographers who lived in the windy city and actively took photos would do in order to construct a historical representation of a disappearing city.

RossAViewfromMtVictoria.jpg .jpg Andrew Ross, View from Mt.Victoria on a windy day, 29-3-98

I've just discovered that Andrew Ross, who lives in Newton, has done so. He has actively photographed Wellington's urban landscape since the early 1990s and started using large format equipment in 1996 and began the ongoing ‘Wellington Views’ series, a constantly growing photographic archive documenting the City and its environments. The emphasis is on those older buildings that are threatened with demolition or significant renovation, and the people who make their lives or livings in the buildings.

His ‘ act of salvage’ for buildings, both humble and significant, that continue to be lost is done with large format cameras ("8 x 10” and "4 x 5”), contact prints, and black and white. He has published a book entitled Fiat Lux that helps us to remember the fast fading past from different perspectives.

RossA13248RiddifordSt997.jpg Andrew Ross, 248 Riddiford St, 1997

Fiat Lux is divided into five sections, each with text and images selected by a different writer/artist/curator and this gives us a good cross-section of his work. The overall spectre of urban development is expressed by this photograph of a two-storey wooden dwelling, which appears to be nothing but front, as though built for a filmset. The existence of the building looks decidely precarious.

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February 3, 2010

a portfolio of my images

A portfolio of my work plus an artist's statement has been uploaded onto the Flickr group Omnibus: providing all things (photographic) at once for commentary. Dom Ciancibelli curated the portfolio images.

10January01_visual diary_223.jpg Gary Sauer-Thompson, Mum, West Terrace Cemetery, Adelaide, 2010

Omnibus is a site for discussions about photography and one way of facilitating this is through members uploading a portfolio and a brief statement about their work. The assumption of the photographic criticism in the group is to consider photography as art rather than aesthetic ideology that holds that photographic images inhabit an autonomous world of pure forms.

You can comment on the portfolio if you wish. Critical comments would be more than welcome. You may need to be signed into Flickr to make comments

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February 2, 2010

Michael Fried on Jeff Wall

Michael Fried in an essay called Art And Objecthood trenchantly criticised the minimalist art of the time. His main concern was what he saw as the art world’s slide into theatricality theatricality. By this he meant the inclusion of the viewers experience of viewing an artwork into the meaning of the artwork itself – the explicit acknowledgment of the role and presence of the viewer (or beholder), and the shift in emphasis away from the intentions of the creator. Fried championed art (mostly Modernist and Abstract) which effectively ignored the role of the beholder, was complete in and of itself, and which functioned as a direct vehicle for the aesthetic concerns of the artist.

His art history book Absorption and Theatricality: Painting and Beholder in the Age of Diderot Fried argued that the same concerns to be at the heart of developments in 18th century French painting. In particular, the anti-theatrical tradition sought to produce art which denied the presence of a beholder by producing work that portrayed people in states of absorption

WallJAdrianHall.jpg Jeff Wall, Adrian Hall

The figure is immersed in their own world and activities and display no awareness of the construct of the picture and the necessary presence of the viewer. Absorption as a recurrent motif throughout Wall’s work: – often his pictures depict people engrossed in some activity, apparently completely oblivious to the presence of either the photographer, or the eventual beholder.

In Jeff Wall, Wittgenstein, and the Everyday Michael Fried says that:

One of the most important developments in the so-called visual arts of the past twenty-five years has been the emergence of large-scale, tableau-sized photographs that by virtue of their size demand to be hung on gallery walls in the manner of easel paintings and, in other respects as well, aspire to what might loosely be called the rhetorical or beholder-addressing significance of paintings while at the same time declaring their artifactual identity as photographs.

The point Fried stresses is that Jeff Wall has been a central figure in that development that Adrian Walker is a striking example of such a work.

What is the significance of the absorption mode? Wall is not much help as his insistence is on the primacy of aesthetic concerns in the form of of notions of beauty, pleasure, and quality (he cites Kant and Greenberg in support of his views), while at the same time calling attention to the congruence between such concerns and an art of the everyday ( eg., cleaning,washing or housework.)

WallJMorningCleaning.jpg Jeff Wall, Morning Cleaning

Fried endeavors to tie this to Wittgenstein's “sub specie æternitatis" view from outside that is, from the standpoint of eternity in contrast to the usual way of looking at things sees objects as it were from the midst of them Wittgenstein held that the work of art is the object seen sub specie aeternitatis; and the good life is the world seen sub specie aeternitatis. This is the connection between art and ethics.

Is Fried arguing that the aesthetic gaze is a “sub specie æternitatis" perspective--one leaves behind all one's personal circumstances and particular interests? The implication is that the disinterested perspective of the Stoic is the happy perspective.

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