SCRATCH IT, STITCH IT, CUT IT, KEEP IT
Ketuta Alexi-Meskhishvili, Mladen Bizumic, Tom Butler, Ulla Jokisalo
26 September – 9 November 2014
Opening Thursday, 25 September
The exhibition Scratch It, Stitch It, Cut It, Keep It brings together four diversely working artists sharing a common practice of dissecting and questioning the materiality of photography, both physically and metaphorically. Despite the artists’ differing subject matter and techniques, there is an underlying tendency to examine, manipulate and thereby expand the physicality of a photographic image, seeing it both as a limit and potential when becoming a container of personal and collective histories, fantasies and desires.
By testing its physicality (and to an extent its endurance) – including using techniques of scratching, cutting, painting over and stitching - the works examine a photograph’s three-dimensional quality to go beyond the photographs inherent two-dimensional plane. At the same time the works take up notions of preservation and conservation in terms of questioning the right to alter or destroy something that could potentially be preserved in its original state. It also leads to a discussion on methods of image-reading, examining to what extent the manipulation and re-use of a photograph is yet another overlaying of time to make traces of human existence and cultural history even more visible.
Ketuta Alexi-Meskhishvili’s work is concerned with the flat surface of photography when it takes a life and depth of its own. The tactile qualities of a photograph hereby become an important characteristic, deliberately leaving traces of the hand when using scratching techniques with tools like razor blades or slivers to damage the photographic material, including negatives. Alexi-Meskhishvili thereby uses photography also as a fugitive testimony, sacrificing originals that cannot be recomposed again.
Mladen Bizumic’s series of work entitled Kodak: la presence de l’image takes as its departure the filing of bankruptcy of the Kodak company. For one part of the series Bizumic physically shred Kodak photographic paper to create new work, thus adding a new value to it. In other works from the series Bizumic depicts various Kodak products that were important milestones for the Kodak company. In both works the physical traces of history and usage become visible, taking up the overall questions discussed in the exhibition context. Bizumic is also currently working on a book, tracing the history of Kodak from its beginnings in the 1880s to its decline, as well as containing an interview with former Kodak employee Steve Sasson, whose invention of the digital camera in 1975 was not developed further. Another part of the book will discuss the material, physical and experiential qualities of analogue photography.
Tom Butler’s work takes as its starting point 19th century albumen prints, which - being portrait photographs - were frequently used as visiting/business cards during this period. Butler has been collecting these cards persistently in recent years to meticulously paint on top of them, thus concealing every sitter’s face and leaving no space for personal expression. Using a technique reminiscent of miniature painting, Butler applies geometric patterns, bandages or fur-like masks to create somewhat carnivalesque figures both playful and dark, humorous and deterrent. As Butler himself says: “I use these portraits as psychological clotheshorses to create grotesque and sinister scenarios, enabling me to project thoughts, fears and anxieties in an immediate and direct way and often with a macabre sense of humor.”
Ulla Jokisalo’s work takes up notions of (human) loneliness, personal history and memory by juxtaposing private and found photographs and physically sowing these together. The results are punctured photo-collages whereby the puncturing tools (thread and needle) have been left on the ground, thus adding connections and traces - in some cases figures - to photographs that originally stood at the centre of the work. Overlaying vintage photographs with coloured thread further accentuates the gap in time, from the point when the photographs were taken and developed to their re-use and perforation by the artist. The resulting works are characterized by a sense of melancholy, oftentimes taking referring childhood memories as a starting point for unravelling a story about loss and absence.
PARTICIPATING ARTISTS’ BIOGRAPHIES
Ketuta Alexi-Meskhishvili was born in 1979 and lives in Berlin. She graduated with a BFA in Photography from Bard College, Annandale, New York in 2006.
Solo exhibitions include Things Are Going Great In My Absence, Kaufmann Repetto project room, Milan (2013), German flowers, Galerie Micky Schubert, Berlin (2013), Tunnel, with Benedicte Sehested, Ancient & Modern, London (2012), One Hand Clapping, Spazio Morris, Milan (2011) and Ere is my head, Eight Veil, Los Angeles (2010). Participations in group exhibitions include Diamonds, diamonds, Gallery Diet, Miami (2013), Destructionconstruction, Tape Modern, Berlin (2011), The Collector’s Guide to New Art Photography Vol. 2, Chelsea Art Museum, New York (2011), Get Behind Me Satan and Push, Peres Projects, Berlin (2010) and I Love the Horizon, MAGASIN-Centre National d’Art Contemporain de Grenoble, Grenoble (2008).
Mladen Bizumic was born in 1976 and lives in Vienna, Austria. Bizumic graduated with an MFA and BFA from the Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, New Zealand (2003/2000) and is currently completing his PhD in Art Theory and Cultural Studies (Prof. Diedrich Diederichsen) at The Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.
Recent solo exhibitions include Bankruptcy and Reorganization, Zamek – Cultural Centre, Poznan, Poland (2014), Kodak: la présence de l’image, Galerie frank elbaz, Paris (2014), Kodachrome Presents, Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand (2013) and Hotel Jugoslavija, Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade (2012). Participations in group exhibitions include Chambre de luxe, Kunstmuseum Thun, Thun, Switzerland (2013), ...Was ist Kunst?...Resuming Fragmented Histories), Künstlerhaus - Halle für Kunst & Medien, Graz, Austria (2013), This is Happening II, Georg Kargl Fine Arts, Vienna (2012) and Envisioning Buildings: reflecting architecture in contemporary art photography, MAK – Museum, Vienna (2012).
Tom Butler was born in London in 1979 and lives in Portland, USA. He graduated with an MFA from the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London in 2007 and a BFA from Chelsea College of Art and Design, University of the Arts, London in 2005. He also received a BA History of Art and Design from Winchester School of Art, Southampton University in 2000.
Recent solo exhibitions include ONE HUNDRED MISFITS, GALLERY FIFTY ONE, Antwerp, Belgium (2014), Absentees, CHARLIE SMITH, London (2013) and The Grotesques, Susan Maasch Fine Art, Portland, USA (2011). Participations in group exhibitions include Regeneration, The Photographers' Gallery, London (2014), THE FUTURE CAN WAIT 2013, Victoria House, London (2013), Zeitgeist Open 2013, ZeitgeistArtsProjects, London (2013) and Extra-Ordinary: Marion Michell, Tom Butler and Alyson Helyer, Core Gallery, London (2012).
Ulla Jokisalo was born in Kannus, Finland, in 1955 and lives in Helsinki. She graduated with a Master of Art from The University of Art and Design, Helsinki (now Aalto University – School of Arts, Design and Architecture) in 1983.
Solo exhibitions include Intentions - Under the Guise of Play, Finnish Museum of Photography, Helsinki (2011), Guises of Play, Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova, Turku, Finland (2011), The World imaginable, The State Museum of History of St. Petersburg (2006) and The Memory of My Images, the Years 1980-2000, Helsinki City Art Museum, Helsinki (2001). Participations in group exhibitions include Darkness & Light, Contemporary Nordic Photography, Scandinavia House, The Nordic Center in America, New York (2014), Still Life / Work Life, Hasselblad Center, Gothenburg (2013), A Female View, Purdy/Hicks, London (2011).