Archive for the ‘global artists’ Category

While I was reading the articles assigned for class introducing us to Liisa Robert’s film,  “What’s the Time is Vyborg?” on a Sunday afternoon, I instantly was inspired by her work.  I believe this inspiration came from the many layers this project presented and how she and her collaborators successfully captured the history of the Finnish-Russian conflict, the current state of Vyborg, Russia, the story of the famous Finnish Library by architect Alvar Aalto, and the perspectives of some local Russian high school students in a creative writing workshop.  I believe my interest also stems from my own Masters Thesis Project that looks at using place as a way for students to  create narratives that critically reflect on their relationship with their local environments.  Thanks to Drea, Hannah and I were able to meet with Liisa before she took off to the airport and was able to learn a bit more about her experience working with the high school students.



The creative writing workshop did not have a predetermined curriculum.   Liisa and the students worked together, day-to-day, on the structure of the workshop. This approach created a democratic experience, allowing the students to have just as much say as the people helping to facilitate the project.  Liisa mentioned they started out with simple questions, such as Who Am I? or What is your favorite part of the city? and later entered  improvised writing excercises with the theme Vyborg as a Prison. Other times they would wander the city using their senses to describe the houses, buildings, streets, sounds, and smells.  The  activities from the first day would influence what would happen the next, creating a very fluid and spontaneous workshop.  At the end of the day the group would critique the activities of the day to help determine what would happen then next day.  This writing workshop is a great example of a democratic learning environment, an approach not commonly used in the public school system in Vyborg.  Liisa mentioned the schools in Vyborg are rather technocratic and do not offer classes that focus on student experience and perspectives.

This creative writing workshop relied heavily on developing trust within the group.  Much of the trust building activities took place in the Alvar Aalto library, allowing this space to not only act as a way to connect with the history and current state of Vyborg, but also as a safe zone.  As seen in the film, there were several examples of creating trust:  the girls lifting a member of the group into the air or the entire group walking blindly in a line down a flight of stairs while holding on to the shoulders of the person in front of them.  The well-being of the participants was a major priority.  These kind of activities allowed the participants to develop the trust needed to become active members of  a collective and improvisational work space.


Liisa also mentioned that the performative aspect of the creative writing workshop was a natural progression from their writing and wandering research activities.  The girls who participated in the project decided that their fictional stories needed to be enacted, or performed, therefore, leading to the camera becoming part of the process.

Another thing I find most interesting is the fact that the clips chosen for the film were initially intended only to be a form documentation. The structure of the film showing the architects working on the building, the girls performing their stories in and around the city,and  shots of the creative workshop activities was an aftermath.  The clips were separate pieces of  documentation that later became constructed together into a  beautifully poetic film. Now, we asked Liisa if she had a suggestions for working in such a improvised way, with so many unknowns.  She mentioned the importance of having confidence in being an artist and teacher is letting this confidence embrace  whatever happens in the classroom.   She gave us the website for the project, check it out.  You can also go to the main website that houses the former link and you will find  a live cam of Vyborg…right now it is snowing!


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Khosrow Hassanzadeh Is a contemporary artist from Tehran, Iran (1963 – current)

He studied painting at Mojtama-e-Honar University (1989-91) in Tehran.

He also studied Persian Literature at Azad University (1995-99), also in Tehran

One of his major influences is American Pop Artist Andy Warhol

Into the International Art Scene:
Khosrow made his first international début, in 1998, at Diorama Arts Centre in London, with an exhibition called “War”. The “War” series was about his reflections as a volunteers soldier for his country during the Iran-Iraqi war, which lasted from 1980 to 1988.

WAR: 1998, London

Through this series, Khosrow, depicted his experiences as a frontline soldier during that war. The images themselves convey, to the viewer, the artist’s sense of grief and honesty about war, death and the un-naturalness of being in a war and seeing people die and their bodies being piled up and buried in large numbers.

These depictions, of course, were contrary to the sentimental versions that the government fed to the public. The official reports of the war are said to have been colorful stories that used words such as “martyrdom” and “pride”, describing those who died as “heroes”. The words served as an attempt to draw attention away from the grim reality that close to a million people died during that 8-year period.
This series is also one example that shows that Khosrow as an Artist who is not afraid to bring into discussion socially sensitive issues, and call into question political propaganda surrounding what he feels are the real conditions in his country. Because of this honest or confrontational approach to sensitive topics, Khosrow became unpopular with Iranian authorities. As a result his work is mostly exhibited in countries outside of Iran, for example, he has had solo shows in European countries such as Amsterdam, London, and other Eastern countries such as, Beirut, Dubai, Phnom Penh.

TERRORIST Series: 2004

This series of five paintings was made as a response to a statement that was made by President Bush, in which he labeled Iran as part of an “Axis of evil”. One of the goals of this series is to challenge the stereotypical Western perceptions of the Islamic world. His choice of medium for this body of work is screen print on canvas and he also used with Photoshop edited imagery. The screen print on canvas reflects influences by American artist, Andy Warhol who was, himself influenced by American pop culture. In this case the medium is intentionally used to refer to the religious propaganda of the Iranian regime.

For this series, Khosrow used members of his own family members as models. With each print he included a short description of who those people are and what they are about. For example, on the above piece the model is his mother and he included a few notes that describe who she is and her role is.

The purpose is to put a face and a precise identity to the majority of ordinary people who are also Muslims living Iran, people who are too busy living their every day lives to be thirsting for the death of people that they’ve never met. The visual language used in this series can also be seen as declaration of his independence from the control of the Iranian regime.


This exhibition is a commentary on how Iranian Culture (identity) and values relating to honesty and self-preservation which have been dying away ever since the Revolution (1979).

The series has an identical content to another body of work, which he titled “Ya Ali Madad”, He expalins: “Ya Ali Madad, Ali is the first Imam in the Shia tradition. He was a strong and humble man, famous for helping poor. He is the Imam of the Pahlavan and they revere his sword, the Khyber. In Iran, when people need help they say ‘Ya Ali Madad’, the calligraphy in the paintings, the letters dance and whirl like Sufi dervishes. The screen print is from an old photo of Pahlavan holding hands on either side of them are a court intellectual, a Dervish, a General and Mullah. The Pahlavan represent many aspects of Iranian culture that we are loosing today. In the Ya Ali Madad series I want to remind people of their beauty, strength and honour.”


This Series Features mugshots of 16 prostitutes from the Holly City of Mashad. These are said to have published in a public news paper at a time when serial killer was fanatically killing prostitutes to “cleanse” the city.

This was another example of Khusrow’s work that could not be exhibited in his home country because of the the confrontational nature of its content.

One article explains: “Faheshe (Prostitutes) series from 2002, exhibited in Berlin’s House of World Cultures in 2004, features portraits of 16 prostitutes who were murdered by a religious fanatic in the holy city of Mashhad in 2001. Although the killer was subsequently hanged for his crimes, many conservative Shiites defended his behavior, and for a while a wave of indignation about the extent of prostitution in the city overshadowed the murders and the trial”.

His work is currently exhibiting at the 53rd Venice Biennale, along with a group of artists from Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan.

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Artist Layla Curtis, calls herself a “topographical designer” that makes subtly 3-d collages and drawings as a “gentle mockery of cartography” changing the names and locations of places like in this collage “Hard Cash” (2004):

A detail shot of “Hard Cash” (2004):

Curtis not only does drawings and collages tied to place, she has done many performative and video series, such as one involving collections of Souvenirs from Manchester and her Message in a Bottle project.

Message in a Bottle: From Ramsgate to the Chatham Islands


On 25th May 2004, fifty bottles containing messages were released into the sea off the south-east coast of England near Ramsgate Maritime Museum, Kent. The intended destination of the bottles is The Chatham Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. The islands, which are 800km east of mainland New Zealand, are the nearest inhabited land to the precise location on the opposite side of the world to Ramsgate Maritime Museum. It is anticipated that the bottles may be found several times before reaching the Chatham Islands. Several of the bottles are being tracked using GPS technology and are programmed to send their longitude and latitude coordinates back to Ramsgate every hour. The information they transmit is used to create a real time drawing of their progress, that looks something like this:

Each non-GPS bottle contains a message from residents of Ramsgate to the residents of The Chatham Islands, a pencil and an instruction leaflet which requests anyone finding a bottle to report to her website and record where and when the bottle was found. In addition they are requested to document their find on a form inside the bottle before returning the bottle to the sea to continue its journey. A page is maintained archiving the found bottles reports here.

Curtis shows an interest in connecting places through her artwork, by releasing these bottles to be found by those far away, in a location-specific place, however she is also interested in the journey of her work, by having people report when and where they are found. I think this project conveys a great concept of what you can do with your artwork to connect where you are currently with places afar, physically or metaphorically, that would be great to show students. I would love to explore a lesson plan, having the students create multiples of objects that mean something to them or where they are from personally, to leave in places or send out to various places, so they are able to experience where they end up or how they are reacted to.

Extra Fun:

Although my main intent in this blog posting was to share with you this particular place-based project of Layla Curtis’s, I can’t help being inspired by this hilarious scene from The Office, a couple weeks ago….

to now show you some more recent work of Curtis’s, from 2008, wherein she participated in a Parkour Thermal Images Documentary project. Curtis’s motivation was her interest in “capturing marks on surfaces as sort of evidence of somebody moving through a space”. Place-based too, huh? Yup, so using a thermal imaging camera and the help of Westminster residents, Curtis followed parkour artists to capture the thermal traces of their movements or through spaces. Called “a temporary piece of public art that references the place of Mayfair,” by Charlotte Ferguson (Arts Liason of Westminster), it is another absolutely fantastic concept that would be very interesting to show students and open a discussion on the imprints we make on the spaces we inhabit in our daily lives.

The full documentary is also available to watch here!

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Occassionally I get discouraged when watching others’ presentations on art and artists they’re excited about.  I feel sometimes – I’m in an all around creative rut even when it comes to PowerPoint presentations, which is why I decided to change my topic on the historical art presentation and go with Pinata art.  I LOVE pinatas.  They’re extremely versatile and easy to make.  I would even go as far as to argue that it could be considered fine art as opposed to a craft.  Arist Meg Cranston proves my theory as well.

So let’s get a little of this pinata history shall we?  Pinatas have been around for AN EXTREMELY long time and may have even originated in China where pots filled with seeds were covered in brightly colored paper and broken with sticks releasing the seeds to fertilate the ground.

For one reason or another this custom spread to Spain.  In the 16th century, Spanish missionaries would use the pinatas to lure the indegenous to gatherings where they would attempt to convert them.

Believe it or not the most common form of Pinata which is the seven pointed star has religious symbolism behind it.

The seven points represent the  seven sins greed, gluttony, sloth, pride, envy, wrath and lust.  The candy and fruit within, symbolize the gifts of faith.  Obviously,the blindfolded participant must defeat the “evil” by breaking it with the stick.   This is when the observers must either help the participant with guidance or trick the participant by tricking them with false guidance.  Once the pinata is broken everyone can indulge in the treats within (the rewards for faith and defeating evil).

Nowadays there are a million different forms pinatas can take on.  With a little cardboard, paper mache, tissue papar and glue, you can create virtually anything.  Artist Meg Cranston created human self-portrait pinatas which challenges the idea of self-destruction.


Essentially pinatas are paper mache and paper mache in my eyes is sculpture.  This guy makes a crazy paper mache pig.


The ideas for potential lesson plans is endless

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Mona Hatoum was born into a Palestinian family in Beirut, Lebanon in 1952 and now lives and works in London and Berlin.

She uses a range of media, including installations, sculpture, video, photography and works on paper.Her work is about the body and the issue of identity becoming the center of an art piece in contemporary art today.  One of her pieces, Corps Etranger, is a video produced when the artist introduced a camera into the orifices of her own body. “The resulting images, accompanied by the sound of the artist’s own heartbeat, offer an intensely intimate yet alienated self-portrait. Observing herself in this way, the artist, as the title of the work suggests, becomes a stranger to herself.” Lucie- Smith also presents the work of other women artists from the Middle East (Afshan Ketabchi and Ghazal) that deal with identity, culture, personal complexes, and tradition. He explains that oftentimes they are forced to be political activists as well as artists because their circumstances force them to be so.

The Mexican Cage, Mona Hatoum, 2002. The friendly colors of the cage work in contrast with the unfriendly nature of the cage.

Light at the End, Mona Hatoum, 2002. Hatoum demonstrates that color can have multiple and shifting meanings.

Map, 1998
glass marbles, Basel

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A few months ago when I was homebound, I was perusing the free movie section on OnDemand and stumbled across this movie titled Born into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids.  Initially it caught my attention because the movie obviously indicated it was about prostitution which I find rather fascinating.  So I clicked view and was ecstatic to find out that the movie was a documentary about a documentary photographer [Zana Briski] who moves to the red light district of Calcutta, takes a group of children under her wing (all of their mothers are prostitutes) and provides them with cheap 35 mm disposable cameras to capture their colorful lives.  Every so often the movie includes a slide show of the children’s work which is ABSOLUTELY breathtaking to the point where it made me teary eyed.  Because it is Calcutta, the scenery is predominantly bright colors and the childrens snapshots are raw and honest.

The movie itself is also raw and honest.  The viewers witness one of the star pupils lose his mother (in a brutal attack by her pimp) right when he is offered an amazing opportunity to travel abroad and of course, the timing couldn’t be worse.  I believe it is a fantastic movie to watch as educators [and as documentary photographers] in order to make us more aware of situations that could pose as potential educational environments.  Zana Briski had no idea that when she moved to Calcutta she would create an environment that would nuture child creativity.  She initially moved there to document the prostitutes.

Here is a link to Zana’s Website http://www.zanabriski.com/

A link to the Kids with Camera foundation that includes the children’s magnificent work http://www.kids-with-cameras.org/kidsgallery/

and you click on particular kids and see their work as well as what they’re doing  now http://www.kids-with-cameras.org/aboutthekids/

And amazingly I actually found the movie in its entirety on Google videos.  What a treat!

If you haven’t already seen this movie then do yourself a favor and watch it!!

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Making History Visible

In the photographic series “The Green(er) Side of the Line,” Alban Biaussatdocuments places and spaces along the Green Line of the 1949 Rhodes armistice agreement, and thereby shows the improbability of separating the physical space of a family’s back patio or a local butcher’s shop that happens to be on the line.

The Green(er) Side of the Line

(Biaussat was born in Paris in 1970 and though he has an MA in photojournalism and documentary photography from the London College of Communication, he also has had a postgraduate level of education in business studies and international relations.)

“In the Middle East, new political concepts, initiatives and slogans are plenty, supplementing each other month after month as the previous ones exhaust themselves, but there is one reference that has borne a sustained potential for visualization, if not for political vision: the Green Line. It is, it seems, well enshrined in people’s minds, whether they like it or not, as a valid political reference.

Since the Oslo years of the 1990s, the 1967 “border” has become the orthodox reference for negotiating the final contours of an improbable “viable” Palestinian State – or, as some would probably prefer, of a viable continued Israeli occupation. Consistently represented in green on a series of geographical maps, it has emerged as the Green Line, attributing also political and legal in/correctness to a series of issues, such as Israeli settlements. Most people would probably assume that the 1949 line has remained the same till 1967. This overlooks the fact that the line has moved during this period. Its position has been continuously affected by the military and economic tactics of the parties and their desire to push the real “line” to the other side of the armistice “zone” where there was one, as is particularly the case in the Golan and near Latrun.

I decided to make the Green Line appear. Photography would be my magic wand.This project thus intends to instrumentalise the visual nature of this political concept and wants to be a gentle, yet absurd, kick in the big green eyes of the so-called solution of “two States living side by side in peace and security along the 1967 border.” By doing so, it intends to communicate, with a smile, a sense of absurdity when envisaging the likelihood of establishing borders in this landscape, if such a thing is possible at all. More interestingly, it is about showing the physical landscape of possible political separation, as was the case in the past, and about generating critical thinking and a healthy feeling of doubt to keep the door open to alternatives.”

Alban Biaussat about his series “The Green(er) Side of the Line”

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