Posts Tagged ‘Teriberka’

nsf research – 6

The Heart of Darkness Series: Troika of Heads

It has been nearly one year since we came across a short article in the New Yorker that refers to the sensibility of Andy Warhol‘s Brillo Boxes. The article is worth a read if you want to refamiliarize yourself with the trajectory of thinking by early theorists of the modern art scene and is available in the New Yorker archives, dated Jan. 11, 2010.  It rehearses older attempts to pin down the meaning of what (we think) Warhol was doing. In one explanation, the article refers to the art historian Betran Rouge, who distinguishes Warhol’s work by comparison to Marcel Duchamp. As you know, Duchamp’s innovation was to place an everyday object into an art gallery and thereby transform it into art.

Rouge states that Warhol departs from Duchamp precisely by Warhol’s imitation of Duchamp’s ready-mades. That is, Warhol creates an illusion of the real, with a fabrication of the everyday object (e.g., Brillo Boxes)– which he then purposefully placed into an art gallery. Set within the context of historical development, if you will, the everyday object, which Duchamp transformed into art by placing it into the art gallery, is then transformed by Warhol into an illusion of art, and thus, twists the illusion-reality barrier further.

Well what does all this have to do with our Heart of Darkness series, which we began in our previous post (see NSF Research.5 below)?

What the New Yorker article reminds its readers, is that Warhol’s work was usually sold piecemeal to collectors, and that it is easy to forget that virtually all of his art exhibitions were installations. That is, Warhol transformed the art gallery into a supermarket. He produced fabrications of everyday objects that, when placed into an art gallery, actually mimic the reality of the supermarket– which includes the reality of the art-market. After all, what difference does it make between shopping in the fruit section at Safeway or the magnets section at the local Museum. But this is where the New Yorker article leaves us hanging dry. The article concludes by suggesting that the meaning behind Warhol’s artwork was that fine art is a commodity. Rightly, the article acknowledges that the art-commodity link is by now a banal one.

But really this is not the point. What the New Yorker fails to describe, is that the supermarket is an art gallery, populated by objects that are produced by real artists, who have degrees in art design. Consider all the incredible artistic creations that one encounters while walking down the breakfast cereal aisle, with its colorful boxes of Fruitloops, etc. which would be nothing if they are not art objects, and that are available only at a fraction of the price for artistic prints. What Warhol was pointing out, was that these objects are at our disposal and yet, we’re throwing them away, as if these art objects are mere advertisements, and it is the contents inside that is of any significance. Incredibly, the only difference between the supermarket and the art gallery, is that in the art gallery, we have not yet arrived at that point that we tear off the painted canvas from the frame, in order so that we can use the wood.

Of course, this is a total reversal of Theodor Adorno‘s premise, when he criticized the liberal state as a sham, merely a front to allow commodity capitalism to intervene in the deepest recess of our desire. If we were to treat commonly all advertising for what it is, real art, who needs art galleries?

Anyway, let us get to the point: What we want to draw attention to is the important idea that Warhol made available to us. He pointed out that (1) the illusion of the real, and; (2) the installation, are BOTH, the context in which we come to understand ourselves as residing in the factory of the sensible. No mere object stands on its own in isolation, but in fact, must be taken within its temporal and fruitloopy logical and spectral sequence. We live in a present made up of several temporalities, thanks to installation. Let’s take a look at this now in the context of the Troika of Heads mentioned in our previous post.

Internet Electronic Image–This is the Temporal Past. It is a beforehand image to the model image. It does have a future, its own future as having been taken before the model image

Framed Wall-Hung Photo — This is the Temporal Present. It is a model image in the Spectral Present

Internet Electronic Image — This is the Temporal Future. It is an afterward image to the model image. It does have a past, its own past as having been taken after the model image

Okay, this is the first set of images, which you are familiar with from the previous post (see NSF Research.5 below). In that post, we explained how we displaced the materiality of the photograph (center) back into its infinite reproducibility context of the electronic images (left and right).

Now, take the three images as an installation of the everyday: First, they represent three individuals who are seen together as a group, symbolizing the formation of Shtokman Development AG, and; Second, the images reflect a constellation of time. As a serial temporality, they capture a beforehand and an afterward, along with a centrally posed, purposeful model image. As a spectral present, the three images were taken within minutes, perhaps within even seconds of each other. How do we know that the center image is the model image? Because it’s printed and framed!  It achieves a notional (abstract) temporal point, by securing the present from its own materiality (it is in a state of decay).

Let’s look now at the same sequence of images, but this time, having taken a few steps back from the wall-hung photo (center).

internet image

framed wall-hung photo

internet image

Okay, let’s look now at the same sequence of images, but this time, having taken even a Few More steps back from the wall-hung photo (center). From this perspective, we can include the actual physical context of the wall-hung photo, and in so doing, create now, a notional or abstract point of reference (the electronic image of the room), from what was earlier a geographical point of reference (a physical room located somewhere):

Internet Electronic Image

room of wall-framed photo

internet image

Again, please click on the middle photo to see that the wall-hung framed photo is there. It is there but it is also now here, in the middle of this press coverage installation. So now we have the full installation line up, as shown here: (left) the beforehand image, which is temporally taking place in front of  the model image, but is behind to it; (center) the model image, which exists in the spectral present, and whose materiality had been displaced; (right) the afterward image, which is temporally taking place after the model image, but is in front of it.

Let us move now by focusing on the middle image, the spectral present.

You peer into a room:

room of wall-framed photo

It is a room with a wall framed photo with an image of three inseparable friends.

In front of the photo, you see a row of identically manufactured chairs. They are lined around a laminated rectangular boardroom table. The number of seats, sixteen in all (you do not count them), tells you suddenly that the room has been created for a particular kind of mutual exchange among persons of equivalence.

However you imagine entering into this room –as nobility, an aged or student — when you see yourself seated, you can imagine that you are besides someone of equal status. You are seated in a chair whose design and function promotes a law of equivalence in status, size and manufacture.

Seen from this perspective, you begin to peer into the room backwards. Right from the beginning, you see that the floor was not laid, the walls not painted, the light fixtures not installed with the end result for individual reading or examination of conscience but instead, all has been laid out for a type of face-to-face group activity. You realize that you are witness to an intention whose purpose is to create a collective behavior and action, to promote, using an older language, a quality of the social.

But you continue to look because you notice something else, something more, in addition. The arrangement of the chairs themselves. They are pushed closely up to the table and their proximity to each other — flush, side-by-side — provides no  movement or natural sense of space for the limbs and the body. Looking closer, you begin to realize that what you see is a surplus of chairs, more than can be contained around the table, and in the last instance, there are chairs sitting on top of the table, making the table itself unusable, much like the arrangement of the chairs themselves. And all of this leaves you with a strange impression. It is a peculiar sight.

On the surface of things, at first glance, you are confronted with a table and chairs, and thus, an invitation to a face-to-face encounter that establishes a status of equivalence. But upon closer examination, you realize that this type of collective action cannot possibly take place. In the end, you see with your own eyes that you are in fact witness to an installation of equivalence, an illusion of the real, or rather, a type of real that is decorated with all the trimmings –cups and saucers, serving trays, etc. — to give the impression of a face-to-face exchange, but in fact, because of its arrangement, right from the beginning, you come now to realize that the floor is laid, the walls painted, the light fixtures installed with the end result precisely for individual examination of conscience.

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nsf research – 5

The heart of darkness

framed wall-hung photo

Notice please, the inset image to the left. As you can plainly see, this inset image depicts a framed wall-hung photograph. The photograph, of course, when taken on its own is an image in itself. It consists of three men standing, facing the camera, holding hands together and posing in a stance that calls to mind the Three Musketeers, a 19th century novel written by Alexandre Dumas about three inseparable friends whose motto is “all for one, one for all” .

This particular image is unique because (1) it has been printed, and; (2) now appears encased in a frame as a photograph. But when stripped of its paper and wooden frame, the image is actually quite typical enough. For example, copies of this very image or variations on this image (taken during the same event), can be seen splattered across the internet. All that is required in order to view these electronic images is (1) access to a computer; (2) an internet connection; (3) google the words Shtokman AG, and; click the images tab. Directly below, we have pasted multiple variations of the framed wall-hung photo as they appear now on the internet.

Well, as you can see, these images consist of the same three men standing in the same positions. Their names, beginning on the far left is Christophe de Margerie, CEO of French oil group Total. In the middle is Alexei Miller, CEO of Russian gas giant Gazprom and, on the far right is Helge Lund, President and CEO of Norwegian oil group StatoilHydro.

The three executives are seen posing (and not posing) for a press conference which took place in Moscow on February 21, 2008, where they signed a shareholder agreement relating to the creation of Shtokman Development AG. Shtokman Development AG is the group formation that has plans to develop the off-shore Shtokman natural gas field, which is located on the Russian side of the Barents Sea, near the Norwegian border.

internet image

internet image 2

internet image 3

Of course, these four images shown above are not identical. Let’s begin to notice their differences by pretending we have arrived at the back pages of a tabloid magazine, where in the “for fun-section”, we are asked to compare and contrast what at first glance appears as two identical images. It is a simple test of the observation faculty.

Upon closer reflection then, playing along with this little game, we see many differences that appear, so to speak, on the surface of things. One can point to, for example, the difference in camera angles used in these images. There is also evidence of different moments during the press conference when the images are taken. Then, there are the unique stagings of the images, and the different posings, eye contacts with the camera, and exact timings of when these images were snapped.

Of course, they all appear to have been taken within a relatively short span of time, within say one hour, or perhaps even within 10 minutes, or maybe even across a timespan that can be measured in seconds.

In this last instance then, we can say, when taking the four images as a whole, that they comprise a group photo in two senses. First, they represent three individuals who are seen together as a group, symbolizing the formation of Shtokman Development AG. Second, when taken together, the images reflect a constellation of time, a certain specific temporality that captures a beforehand and an afterward, along with a centrally posed, perhaps one might say, purposeful model image.

And it is, in fact, this model image, that hangs as a wall-framed photograph. Let’s focus on the image in the strictest terms as a photograph. First, we notice that the photo exists technically, spatially, and aesthetically outside from these other electronic images. One might say, that while earlier, this framed photograph was an electronic image, circulating across the internet, now, by its very framing, it has both lost it sense of mobility, and, acquired a sense of real life materiality. And this materiality, of course, stands as a complete identity as understood by the concept of the photograph. Speaking frankly, as a photograph, and much like the men and their friendship it depicts, the image hanging on the wall will decay over time. It no longer can be reproduced or instead, has been reproduced for the final time, achieving its own sense of authenticity, against an internet world of infinite reproduction.

Ah-ha. You ask, what next? Well, we must confess to what we have just accomplished. Until now, until this exact moment, until the witness of this post, in fact– there was a special difference separating the wall-hanging photograph from the internet electronic images. A fact that just now has been overcome. To explain: there once existed a difference that denied the unity of these images. They were previously separated by, on the one hand, the physical materiality and self-enclosed authenticity (wall-hung photo), and on the other hand, the downloadability of their unfixity so to speak (internet electronic images)–

What we have accomplished in this post, just now, is to bring the wall-hung photo, for the first and perhaps only time (Ta-Dah!), side-by-side, into alignment along with the other electronic images that circulate across the internet. One might say, that by bringing the wall-hung photograph into the sphere of its circulating companion images, we plan now to displace it’s own present logic, that is, the current logic of its location and field of present positioning– into the sensibility (of its former location) as an image of infinite reproduction.

This is a long task. But let’s begin by taking a few steps back from the wall, to contemplate now, where the wall-hung image is physically located.  The wall-hung framed photograph can be found in this room here, seen in this photograph below:

framed wall-hung photo

Okay, that’s all good. Now let’s take even a few more steps back from the wall, to contemplate where the wall-hung image is physically located. It appears at the far end of a room. Please click the photo to enlarge the image to see for yourself.

room of wall-framed photo

This is not our room. Is it yours? Whose room is this then? That is, in which room has the circulating image taken on material form? In which room has this image been framed and hung, like a trophy of heads or troika of heads, hanging in the den?

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Teriberka, residing on the edge and on the cusp.

Preliminary fieldwork in Norway and Russia — Oslo, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, and in the village of Teriberka, where plans are underway to transform the town into a modern delivery station for the off-shore Shtokman natural gas field.

We traveled to Murmansk to attend the Norwegian–Russian Arctic Offshore Workshop sponsored by Research Council of Norway and Russian Academy of Sciences. The conference theme was Optimal Management of Petroleum Resources, titled PETROMAKS. The co-leaders: Dr. Siri Helle Friedemann of Research Council of Norway and Dr. Vladimir Pavlenko of Russian Academy of Sciences. Teriberka aims to be a modern off-loading site for the proposed Shtokman gas field.


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