Escapism by Yi-Fu Tuan – Preface

Escapism by Yi-Fu Tuan
The Johns Hopkins University Press
Baltimore & London
1998

Black = My thoughts
Pink = Quotes
Blue = An external reference

Preface

Before I start I must make one point, when reading a book that attempts to analyse culture you must take into account the personality of the writer, every day we meet different characters we don’t agree with, the same goes for writers; just because they have been given the permission and support to publish a book does not make them right. In this case within the first 2 pages I have already made assumptions about Yi-Fu Tuan:

– He talks about how he was surprised he enjoyed Disneyland as “well educated people, among whom I count myself, are taught to dismiss the theme park as an unreal, fantasy world supported by hidden – and therefore somewhat sinister – forces.” – This gives me a sense of snobbery, someone who doesn’t let themselves enjoy an activity that is below his intelligence – for me this gives me a bad impression of the book as at the moment I see escapism through media and entertainment as a way of disengaging the brain and being submissive to pure childlike entertainment. – My opinion on this might change however.
As Tuan discusses the differences between humans and animals he talks about how he aspires to be immortal – I think you have to be quite narcissistic to actually want immortality, again just like each writer puts their own opinions throughout their book, I the reader will read it in a different way than you might.

I can always resort to imagination, which is the most readily available means of transporting the self.” — “But imagination can lead us astray – into fantasy, the unreal, the unreal, and the grotesque; and it can tempt us into first picturing, the (too often) acting out evil.” – I’ve never considered imagination as escapism, only ever digital objects – this is an overlook perhaps of my generation. Now it seems obvious the original escapism is to daydream or imagine. It’s interesting to consider the difference between imagination and fantasy and think about their negative aspects not only positive ones.

LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS – “And if the project is not food but a monument, a city, an empire, the amount of prior destruction, the exploitation of labor both animal and human, the sweat, pain, and death, add up to a picture closer to hell than heaven.” – The end point is the method of escaping (i.e. a house used to escape nature) but what has lead to it’s creation could take away from the “sanctuary” image we hold. – The escapism is lessened.

I haven’t even started yet and I’m raring to go, I don’t agree with everything Tuan has written, but that makes this all the more exciting. Stay tuned for chapter updates with quotes, thoughts and references.

Photo Art: The New World of Photography

Photo Art: The New World of Photography

Edited by Uta Grosenick & Thomas Seelig

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I consider my photography Art, but this doesn’t have clear boundaries. I am looking at the photo as art to so how I can be influenced in my work and what makes a photo Art. This book seemed the perfect place to go to see some photo art and hopefully get some inspiration.

©Valerie Belin

Belin’s work inspires me through it’s aesthetic nature, the lifeless faces and use of lighting make the models appear to be made of plastic.

©Rut Blees Luxemburg

Rut Blees Luxemburg’s images use the strange nature of twilight much like the photographer I have been looking at, the colours and light are beauitfuly and carefully composed.

©Izima Kaoru

Despite only finding 3 relevant photographers it was worth carrying that giant book for this one. Kaoru’s work is stunning, it has elements of Cindy Sherman and Mariko Mori, who create characters and places them in a story to make a comment on an issue in society. I will explore her work in more depth in a futur post once I have read up on her work and read interviews.

Adam Hinton – Lovin’ It

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Adam Hinton’s book ‘Lovin’ it’ initially caught my attention because of the book title. The iconic McDonalds catchphrase paired with the city lights instantly made me think about consumerism and advertising. The book is Hinton’s exploration of Shanghai, China. His work aims to comment on the drastic social changes occurring in Japan during 2004-2007 when these images were taken. Whilst acknowledging the benefits of technology and consumerist culture Hinton looks at how the speed of change is having a darker effect on Shanghai.

Some images are even paired with quotations from communist leader Mao Zedong. Who’s government rule led to the death of millions of citizens. Hinton uses these quotes to relate to China’s current situation to that of Hinton’s ruling. All the sudden drastic changes mean people and places get left behind.

The other aspect that drew me to this book is the styling. There is something quite surreal about the use of night/ twilight. Maybe it stems from the relationship between the content and the primary lighting coming from technology. I have explored this before in my series Digital Rest. Technology as a lighting source fascinates me, especially when it’s relative to the content.

“The neon lights from the shops and adverts produce this surreal manufactured environment which creates this feeling of hyper-reality.”
– A quote from An interview with photographer Adam Hinton by Nigel Warburton.

Hinton also explains how the lighting creates a hyper-reality, one of the key themes in my work, and from this book I can see that surreal nature that first drew me to the book does have an alternate/hyper reality feel to it. The use of night time and twilight paired with advertising lighting is something I need to explore more. Maybe through work that has nothing to do with consumerism. Detach the content and focus on how the styling effects the sincerity of the image.

In another interview Hinton talks more specifically about the consumerist influence of the project. You can read the full interview here.

 

Ready Player One: Photography, Alternate Reality and Fiction

Over the course of 4 days I read Ernie Clines New York bestseller novel ‘Ready Player One’. My original intent was to tweet everything I found interesting, but this became imposible, it would have taken me months to read if I tweeted every single thing. I also found myself reading 100 or so pages at a time too immersed into the book to remember to take notes. The theme I found most interesting within the book is the idea of identity, knowing someone so well in a virtual world without ever meeting them. Once Ernie Cline made the comparison that Dungeons and Dragons was the original virtual reality it made me think about the role of this book. Like the protagonist Wade I found myself connecting with people I didn’t know. In Wade’s case they were real people but their avatars might not have represented them, but in my case I felt I became quite intimate with characters who didn’t even exists, all I knew of them was my interpretation of Clines writing. In turn this made me think about how this reflects within photography, in creating something fiction we are creating an alternate reality, wether it be through the more accepted route of gaming and films or through writing and photography. In photography we see all these genres, documentary, fine art, conceptual but why isn’t there a fiction genre like there is in writing? I guess you could argue in some cases there is, Cindy Sherman creates a series of characters all with fictional identities but you would never call her work fiction photography or an alternate reality.

 
Image above ©Cindy Sherman

Photography seems to still have this relationship with reality that it can’t get away from. I would like to over my career help separate this tie. Once you’re established as a fiction producer then you can start to think about sub genres, sci-fi, fantasy, romance etc… By all means photography is about telling a story, but who’s to say that story has to be fact?

Food for thought while I think about what’s my product, leaving university trying to find a voice as a photographer. See my book notes below, I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of anything, games, anime, tv, sci-fi.

  1. On page 16 and hooked already @erniecline #readyplayerone #erniecline #rpg #oasis http://instagr.am/p/U6U0aalDcC/
  2. “I had access to the OASIS, which was like having an escape hatch into a better reality. The OASIS kept me sane.”#readyplayerone #erniecline
  3. “A Gunter rite of passage, like a Jedi building his first lightsaber.” Wade Watts on coding his first Atari game #readyplayerone #gunter
  4. “The lines of distinction between a persons real identity and that of their avatar began to blur.” #readyplayerone #quote #oasis #erniecline
  5. “In a way, these old role-playing games had been the first virtual reality simulations.” #dungeonsandsragons #dandd #readyplayerone #quote
  6. Just finished level one. Damn this is a good book. meant to be reading it bit by bit. But just read 150 pages in one go #readyplayerone
  7. “It didn’t matter who was in charge. Those people were rearranging deck chairs in the Titanic and everyone knew it.” #readyplayerone #quote
  8. 47 pages to go. Lets do this!!! #readyplayerone #finalbattle #oasis #rpg #scifi #erniecline http://instagr.am/p/VH_V7oFDVb/

RPG and Virtual Reality

I have this urge with this project to produce something really technologically advanced, the one down side, I have no idea how to build software or electronics. Or even how to go about finding someone who does, and get them to do it for free.

Recently I have been watching an anime about an RPG. The first season of ‘Sword Art Online‘ see’s the creator of a virtual world release only 10,000 copies of the game, and once logged in you cannot log out. It’s his way of playing God. Also unlike normal RPGs once you die in the game you die in real life too. The series sees almost 2 years of the game inside, people start to prefer that world to the real one, get married and forget about reaching the 100th level, as their bodies in real life are laying in a special SAO victims hospital being kept alive by a drip, exploring issues of which is the real reality? I won’t go into the storyline too much as it has loads of flaws and unanswered questions but my point is that this anime has been voted by many websites the best of 2012, when I started my symposium I wanted to explore the photograph as an alternate reality but I kept on stumbling and getting stuck with no research content. So I abandoned it, but as this anime has made me think about virtual reality even more I think there is some way I can tap into this with photography. I am not sure how yet but this has got to be a way forward for not only my work but for society too. How long will it be before products like Nervgear are mainstream? (not in the crazy trapped in a virtual world way) And how can this be utilised within photography?

Upon a new fascination with virtual realities I bought this book, which I am currently reading. Once I am finished reading it I will storify my tweeted notes and see how this has had an impact on me and how the author utilises virtual reality.

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The book is going to be made into a film as well due to it’s popularity. Watch this interview with Ernie Cline the author to hear about the book plot and the plans for the film.

Tokyo Clash: Japanese pop culture by Ralf Bahren

Tokyo clash was published in 2010 by h.f.ullman and is written by Ralf Bahren. Ralf explores the mass culture in Tokyo and depicts through images and writing how we are “exposed to sensory stimulation beyond anything you have ever experienced”. I ordered this book when i was considering just looking at Japanese pop culture, obviously I have widened my ideas back out to Pop culture in general but that doesn’t mean this book won’t be useful. let’s see what it has to say.

Its multitude of parellel cultures and styles blurs the boundaries between colourful chaos and retained tradition. It is a culture of NOW, an immediate presence that often lasts only the blink of an eye, changing faces as you advance, with yesterday and tomorrow somehow condensed into the moment.
-Page 7

Each exploration of the city comes under a title, I will look at these individually.

Flowers p12

Massive, earthquake-proof buildings cover up almost all the finer, flourishing details that make up its lively spirit.

Cute p16

Cute does not only apply to living beings, but even more inanimate objects.

Print Club p98

Like our photo booths but the booths allow you to add cute decorations and effects to your images.

Cosplay p106

Cos(tume)-play and masquerade are widely accepted as expressions of personal and emotional freedom.

Doll p123

If you can’t get it in real life, just get it in plastic.

Advertising p138

Escape is not an option. Commerce is lurking everywhere and it’s by far the major cause of colors stimulating your retina… It brightens up the daily grind

I found this book a decent brief look at all aspects in Japanese culture, however I was expecting it to be a depper analysis/look into things like otaku, colour, packaging  manga and consumerism. And whilst it did cover these topics it didn’t explain anything about them, just a short paragraph about what they are. There was no context or information, it just showed me about Japaense culture rather than explain it to me.

Alex Gross

“Bizarro” Mixed Media on Antique Photograph, 7 x 5 Inches
“Leia’s Very Bad Day” Mixed Media on Antique Photograph, 7 x 5 Inches
“Peter” Mixed Media on Antique Photograph, 7 x 5 Inches
“Batman” Mixed Media on Antique Photograph, 7 x 5 Inches

Alex Gross’s mixed media pieces take vintage cabinet photos and transforms them into modern pop culture icons through paint. The majority of the photographs are transformed into fictional characters from comic books, by transforming sepia, simple images into fantasy like images completely transforms the purpose of the subject. A person who is forgotten in time, and a family photo which has somehow become lost suddenly is given an identity and use, in a way it is comforting as well as comical.

Los angeles-based artist alex gross has created a collection of reconfigured cabinet cards from the late 19th and early 20th century.
the vintage photographs have been altered by means of mixed media to portray the figure depicted the image as an imagined or
contemporary comic book super hero. the photographs, originally a commercial printed portrait standard forms gross’ collection.
The cabinet cards will be on display along with nineteen new mixed media pieces in gross’ solo exhibition ‘product placement’
at jonathan levine gallery in new york city beginning february 25th, 2012.

– http://www.designboom.com/weblog/cat/10/view/18839/alex-gross-reconfigured-cabinet-cards.html

Product Placement @ Jonathan LeVine gallery

February 25, 2012 through March 24, 2012

Product Placement is a solo exhibition by Alex Gross featuring his painting and his multi-media art, looking at consumerism, pop culture, and branding.

Here are some of his paintings…

 

 

Ego books and posters

Nicolas Cazagou has taken Facebook, our public diary format and put it back into traditional book form. EgoBook is a Facebook app that makes you facebook into a year book style paperback.

This then progressed into EgoPoster’s much like the collage style twitter portrait i posted about before, but it creates you profile picture out of images from your facebook.