Sunday, 23 February 2014

New Openings

Museums used to be hermetic, both in space and in mind. Little light came in through the columns and curtains, and little came out. But things are changing.

Last week I finally made it to the Museum aan de Stroom (MAS) in Antwerp. Housed in a surreal stack of brick and curved glass panels, it combines the previous collections of the maritime, ethnography and folklore museums. Once you enter it is hard to decide what is more spectacular: viewing the inside or viewing the outside. And why shouldn't museums compete with the outside world?

Speaking of which - the new Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw. Although set just in front of the memorial where chancellor Willy Brandt fell to his knees in 1970 in recognition of Germany's responsibility for the war, it refuses to be another Holocaust museum. Instead, it traces the entire history of Jews in Poland, from a millenium ago until today.

The building - seemingly simple from outside yet curved and complex on the inside - reflects this openess. What could be better for the new museums than visual and intellectual osmosis? Let the sunshine in.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Architectural Nudism

Maybe it's because it's winter and everyone is covered up that all my recent contributions involve nudity. Or maybe it's just a coincidence that the only artist that truly kept my attention at Warsaw's Zachęta exhibition on contemporary Brazilian art was Fabiano Rodrigues.

Rodrigues takes photos of himself skating through beautiful buildings, sometimes naked. I like that. It may seem gratuitous, but it highlights both his vulnerability and the buildings' allure. What's not to like?

Check out his tumblr too. More variety soon (maybe). 

Monday, 3 February 2014

A Case for Delay

Susan Sontag's "On Photography" contains such poignantly accurate observations, that when I read the collection of essays some years ago they may or may not have caused me to have my digital camera stolen.

"Needing to have reality confirmed and experience enhanced by photographs is aesthetic consumerism to which everyone is now addicted. Industrial societies turn their citizens into image-junkies; it is the most irresistible form of mental pollution...Ultimately, having an experience becomes identical with taking a photograph of it." (1977) How prophetic is that?

I switched to manual photography. Isn't removing instant gratification a way to limit abuse?

Abuse maybe, but not the lure of glorification. Like these September shots from Sicily I only just received. Looking at them now, when the snow is piling up in Warsaw's streets, they are charged with the pathos of time. They have become relics, heightening melancholy and idealising a moment long gone.

As Sontag put it 35 years before Facebook: "Essentially, the camera makes everyone a tourist in other people's reality, and eventually in one's own."

Well, sometimes that can be nice too.