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Entries in war (131)

Saturday
Nov112017

the poppies blow

a Haig Poppy from Lady Haig's Poppy Factory, London, founded in 1926.

One can only think that the British and the British Empire side, while officially victorious in the Great War, was left grievously wounded and stunned.  It took eight years before the Poppy Fund was established, more for the cenotaphs.  War is clearly not a zero-sum game; everyone is damaged, everything is set back, everyone mourns. 

Tuesday
Jun202017

sniper camo

Turkish sniper captured during the Gallipoli Campaign of WWI

Lightweight BDU Ghillie Suit $ 269.99 at Ghillie Suit DepotAnd on it goes. 

I sense a fashion moment coming on.

Sunday
Jun182017

the ghili suit of the Iranian Army

Camouflaged Iranian Army soldiers march during a parade in Tehran. Photograph: Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA

This remarkable image from the Army Day Parade in Teheran on April 18th, and many more like it spread around the web, shows a particular kind of Iranian Army camouflage called a ghili suit.  It appears to come in a range of colours, from white to charcoal, and clearly acts much like the dazzle camouflage on WWI ships where the shape of the body (of the ship, or the soldier) is rendered diffuse, directionless, completely indistinct. This seems quite different from the flat camouflage patterns of western armies which rely on colour and a general blurriness within the clear outline of the body.  

Checking on the history of the ghili suit, it is well known in hunting circles, originally made of burlap and used by ghillies to catch poachers. British snipers wore them in WWI. The Iranian Army wear their suits with gaiters, as do Highland marching pipe bands, another curious reference to some sort of Edwardian Hibernia.

Further checking reveals a great number of war games sites with instructions on how to make your own ghillie (the northern European term; ghili, the Persian spellilng) suit, such as this one:


From GhillieTreff.de, clearly a ghillie enthusiast whose aim is total invisibilityEasy to mock, as do many of the sites that show the Iranian ghili suits on parade, but it is war, in Iran, not a war game.  This is extreme garb, so environmentally sensitive to shadow and light, shrubs and glare – a sensitivity upon which one’s life depends.  This isn’t a uniform proclaiming identity, rather its absence. 

Tuesday
Nov152016

Leonard Cohen: The Partisan, 1969

Oh the wind, the wind is blowing. Through the graves the wind is blowing.  Freedom soon will come.  And then we'll come from the shadows.

Thursday
Nov052015

Peter Lanyon: Thermal, 1960; John Gillespie Magee: High Flight, 1941

Peter Lanyon, 1918-1964. Thermal, 1960. Oil on canvas, 1829 x 1524mm. Tate T00375, purchased 1960.

If there was ever a painting that matched John Gillespie Magee's High Flight, below, it is Lanyon's Thermal, above.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air....

Magee was in the RCAF, Lanyon RAF; Magee killed at 19 in 1941, Lanyon survived to buy a glider and paint what he saw into the early 1960s.  There is a resurgence of interest in Lanyon because of a new exhibition at the Courtauld.  Well-known, but not well-featured, but now there are articles on him everywhere, Thermal explained, Silent Coast discussed: the point where abstract expressionism met English landscape.  
However it is explained, what I see in Thermal is that 1960s Austin side mirror shape that gives the whole painting its scale from the era to the plane, to the air outside it.  

Silent Coast, below, just from the name alone, tells us it is an aerial of a coastline, beautiful but less magical than Thermal, which is complex, difficult. 

Peter Lanyon, Silent Coast, 1957. oil on masonite, 122 x 93.6 cm, Manchester City Galleries

Perhaps surviving WWII (Lanyon was stationed in the North Africa theatre, dangerous, but not as lethal as John Gillespie Magee's Sqd 412, an RCAF bombing squadron flying over Europe where an aircrew's life expectancy was about two weeks) – perhaps surviving WWII made Lanyon particularly free.  For those who did survive, the war had been the high point of their lives and they'd made it through.  The last verse of Magee's High Flight actually does not seem to end, so sublime is the moment of flight.  Like Thermal, it is entirely absorbed in the act of flying, where survival, or not, is in the future and hardly to be thought of.

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
- Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Thursday
Oct082015

Thomas Hirschhorn: In-Between, 2015

Thomas Hirschhorn. In-Between. Photograph: Mark Blower

Thomas Hirschhorn's In-Between at South London Gallery has been reviewed in The Guardian under the title: 'Things fall apart: the beautiful Marxist bomb that's hit south London;  Artist Thomas Hirschhorn plays on our manic pleasure at seeing ruins by making a whole building collapse in on itself'   

But not really, it is in a gallery, which is still standing.  This is a simulacrum of a building collapsing in on itself.  Whatever he is doing, and it is explained in Adrian Searle's review, one has to ask whether or not such an installation does give us manic pleasure.  I'm not sure.  Hirschhorn quotes Gramsci's note, from Prison Notebooks, 'destruction is difficult; indeed, it is as difficult as creation'.  Well, whatever.  What is strange is that this art installation must be taken seriously in the light of the fairly simple destruction taking place in Palmyra, and the very similar images seen every day from Aleppo and Damascus.  Or even the destruction of the MSF hospital in Kunduz, which although it took half an hour, was relatively quick and one might say simple.  

Hirschhorn's ruins are actually made of cardboard and styrofoam standing in for concrete and steel, so technically, I suppose, a maquette, or a model.  He says, 'a ruin stands for a structural, an economical, a cultural, a political or a human failure' and it is failure he is giving form to.  Art is used here as an intermediary between real ruins and the causes of the real ruins, as if the lessons need to be spelled out.  Indeed Adrian Searle appreciates this.  If this exhibition is popular, does this indicate some sort of disaster fatigue amongst the general gallery-going first world public?  'oh god, another front page photo of a bombed building with little kids playing in the rubble. Can't take it in. Let's go look at Hirschhorn's ruin instead.'  

Compared to Jeremy Deller's It Is What It Is, his exhibition of the bombed car that killed 38 people in Iraq in 2007, In-Between is a limp thing, lacking in commitment and urgency,  It remains a maquette, and as such doesn't ask for much from the viewer.  Of course it is unfair writing about any work one hasn't seen, but I hadn't seen Deller's piece either, but I got it, or at least got what I needed to hear out of it.  And that is the point.  What, and how much, in any piece of art, passes a critical point whereby viewers find something to engage with, not just gaze at. In-Between seems a gesture, only. 

Thursday
Oct012015

Battle of Jutland

Three drawings of The Battle Cruiser Action in the Battle of Jutland during WWI. Taken from History of the Great War - Naval Operations, volume 3, Spring 1915 to June 1916 (Part 2 of 2) by Sir Julian S Corbett. London: Longmans, Green, 1921.

From History of the Great War - Naval Operations.  God this is exciting reading.  The first drawing above shows the movement of all the battle cruisers in this engagement from 2:45 to 3:00 pm. The next from 3:15 to 3:30, and the thrid from 3:40 to 4pm.  The speed is evident.  How quickly things moved.

Trafalgar was set up along Army lines: two opposing forces arrayed facing each other except that Nelson changed his line to two perpendicular arrows.  By the Battle of Jutland in the North Sea, May 31, 1916, opposing forces appear to operate parallel to each other, in feints and parries.  These were battle cruisers, weather not an issue but speed, torpedoes and range were.  It looks like a deadly dance chart.

Tuesday
Sep292015

The Battle of Trafalgar drawn after the fact

A lightly edited (by me) description from the website this print was found on: This is a popular print from about 1812. HMS Victory, followed by HMS Temeraire, is at the head of the left-hand column of British ships, which had been sailing for some considerable time into the teeth of the French and Spanish broadsides without being able to fire back. In the French line, just to the right of where HMS Victory's column is aiming, is the French flagship Bucentaure, and behind it the Redoutable. HMS Victory cut in between them and delivered a broadside into the stern and down the length of Bucentaure. Minutes later, a shot from high up on Redoubtable struck Lord Nelson with a fatal wound.

Nelson's enigmatic little sketch formalised into a historic account: mathematical, geometric, correctly military; theory rather than practice.  This is, perhaps, the danger in all writing after the fact. The narrative is clarified, made correct.  It is a design exercise, making a coherent object out of a melée on the sea with cannonballs breaking ships into splinters, people being killed, drowned, wounded.  In this allegedly 'popular' print, the sea is like the table tops of battles between lead soldiers.  By this time, seven years after Trafalgar, the battle had become mythic, as had Nelson.

Sunday
Sep272015

Nelson's battle plan for Trafalgar, 21 October 1805

Captain Horatio Nelson. Battle plan for the engagement with the combined fleets of the French and Spanish Navies, during the War of the Third Coalition of the Napoleonic Wars off Cape Trafalgar, Spain. 1805 © National Maritime Museum, London.

A wall of ships, the British ships sail toward it planning to cut the line in three, taking out the flagship first, i.e. no signals.  Not being a naval historian, and reading a brief summary, it appears that part of the English fleet was at Gibralter, weakening the total Navy, and so the French and Spanish thought they could defend Cadiz by forming a long line in front of it.  However, weather will intervene.  Little wind and contradictory orders to the French and Spanish to turn resulted in an extremely slow reformation leaving clumps of ships over a loose five-mile line.  In come two tight arrow-like British lines.  As they all were no doubt luffing around in the same calm weather, the battle must have seemed a bit like slow-motion.  However, outnumbered, outgunned and out-shipped, the British won, Nelson was shot and died, and storms that blew up the next day sank several of the wounded ships of the day before.  

If there is anything that endears one to Nelson's 'England expects that every man will do his duty' spelled out in signal flags flying from his own flagship, it is this scrap of a battle plan on the back of what looks like a bit of blotting paper.  One must never be seen to be trying too hard, but duty is done nonetheless.

Does this kind of thinking exist any more?  I only come across it in British espionage novels, those thrilling, complicated, but allegedly deeply conservative tales that pass these days as my escape reading.  Ex-SAS men gone rogue sort of stuff.  Not really rogue, in the end one finds they are on the side of right and duty.  Of course.

Anyway, beautiful little drawing.  It moves me to tears for some reason.

Wednesday
Jan212015

P J Harvey: On Battleship Hill, 2011

Sunday
Jan182015

technical strategies: horses

Alexander the Great depicted in a mosaic depicting Battle of Issus. Photograph: De Agostini/Getty Images

In terms of strategy I'm beginning to wonder if contemporary news coverage isn't preoccupied more with battles than with larger strategies, which would perhaps necessitate a discussion of root causes.  Edward Luttwak, writing about Roger Knight's book on Napoleon in LRB, 18 December 2014,  likens levels of strategy to a building where each floor is dependent on the one below: operational strategies depend on technical levels of strategy, and tactical strategy depends on operational strategy – the ability to actually fight.  At the level of grand strategy where wars are fought between empires of alliances, there is an assumption that the supporting levels of strategy are all in place.  In fact it all has to be in place: Germany in WWI was powerful and skilful in battle (technical, operational and tactical levels) but was hitched to the declining Ottoman and Hapsburg empires pitted against the British, French, Japanese and Russian empires.  One might say these latter empires were declining as well, but were in an earlier and less debilitated stage of decline.  Or in Napoleon's case it wasn't the battle of Waterloo that ended his reign, rather (according to Luttwak) it was the ongoing presence of a vast array of opposing forces, from Sardinia to Sweden, Britain to Russia.

This, above, is allegedly Alexander at the battle of Issus in 333 BC against Darius of Persia.  The mosaic shows the base unit of a fighting force: the man, his armour, his sword and his horse: the elements of the technical strategy.  It was a decisive battle, fought near present day Mosul.  According to wikipedia Alexander had the smaller army but better tactics; his victory 'led to the fall of the Acaemenid Empire', or the First Persian Empire that had formed in the sixth century BC. One reason given is that the Persian empire by 333 was too large and too incoherent for efficient military support.  I'm sure there were other reasons, but the failure of a coalition of many nations is interesting in light of our present creation and de-creation of allies and axes.

Here is the full mosaic, below, Darius in a chariot anticipating the eventual conversion of cavalry to tanks. There is such a similarity between all these battle depictions, from Issus to Wounded Knee.  It is the horses, the horses.

The Battle of Issus, between Alexander the Great on horseback to the left, and Darius III in the chariot to the right, represented in a Pompeii mosaic dated 1st century BC – Naples National Archaeological Museum.

Monday
Jan122015

more cavalry

Mounted warriors pursue enemies. Illustration of Rashid-ad-Din's Gami' at-tawarih. Tabriz, first quarter of the fourteenth century. Water colours on paper. Original size: 17.5 cm x 25.8 cm. Staatsbibliothek Berlin, Orientabteilung, Diez A fol. 70, p. 59.

And we return to a depiction not unlike the ledger drawings.  Although the previous post's image from the 1371 Manual of Horsemanship and Military Practice shows the mounts bouncing towards each other like something from Thelwell, these horses are intent, flying flat out, gory scenes of death and dismemberment along the way.

My goodness, here is a forum all about historical martial arts – horses, armour, speed, distance and the length of your stirrups. This should explain it all, she said hopefully.

There is great interest in historic warfare and accurate re-enactments, and much debate about, among other countless details, such things as whether Parthian horses stirred up such clouds of dust that the Romans couldn't actually see where they were. Maybe.  'Chiron' (Lieutenant) says some would be making dust while others waited for their riders to restock their arrow quivers.  This level of logistical detail seems to go on for pages as discussion shifts from the gait used to get to the battle to whether all the horses arrived together or not; this is for an army that existed from 247 BC to 224 AD, in what is now Iran.  The Parthian empire covered pretty much all the middle east countries racked by war today, from Afghanistan to Georgia, Iraq to Turkey.  

The Art of War, from Sun Tzu, is a treatise on tactics and strategies that have changed little in the fifteen centuries since it was written.  Reading this and Clausewitz's early nineteenth century On War, one realises that war is a texture, layered but ultimately predictable as certain strategies reoccur throughout the centuries and appear, depressingly, in contemporary campaigns.  Politics change, as do the issues that prompt warfare, but the actual fighting is always aiming and killing, at various scales and speeds.

Friday
Jan092015

swords, horses, flowers

Cavalry Charge from 'Nihayat al-Sul' ('A Manual of Horsemanship and Military Practice'), 1371 (detail of 53088), Islamic School, (14th century) / British Library, London, UK / © British Library Board. All Rights Reserved / Bridgeman Images

Thursday
Jan082015

Cavalry

Winslow Homer. The War for the Union - Cavalry Charge, printed in Harper's Weekly 5 July 1862

There is that relationship between battle and horses that held up until the second world war, cavalry units converting to tank units after the first world war.  There are dreadful stories of horses requisitioned from all over Britain, family horses to milk float dobbins to percheron teams, for the Front, poor things.  Cavalry horses were supposedly a special kind, mythologised in War Horse, but were often just whatever horse was available that hadn't been killed in the previous battle.  One suspects PTSD for animals is not much considered, most of the references to PTSD are about the role of horses in rehabilitating PTSD veterans.  The BBC did a program on horses in WWI. It is tragic, their bravery.

Drawings and paintings of cavalry charges such as this one, just 6 years before the battle of Little Bighorn, differ greatly from the ledger drawings of the previous post.  Here it is all heroics and glory and a large number of blades swinging about in the air.  This wood etching by Winslow Homer for Harper's Weekly was the equivalent of the war photograph of today.  Of course being a drawing licence can be taken.  No blood gushes, it can only be imagined – all those sabres are landing somewhere.  Being a civil war, it was brother against brother; the 'enemy' was like you just wearing a different coloured jacket.  Does it have to happen?  

Some essential reading: James Meek reviews four books on the British Army in Afghanistan (London Review of Books, Vol. 36 No. 24 · 18 December 2014) – many things we did not hear: Basra was an underfunded defeat, the subsequent transfer to Afghanistan was both face-saving and under the aegis of the Americans, Helmand province where they were based had 150-year old active memories of the last British debacle on the Northwest Frontier, British performance was mostly defensive under near-constant fire from local groups.  This isn't quite how it was told sold to us.  I'm waiting for the equivalent analyses of the Canadian record in Khandahar. We didn't have the oppressive prestige of the British Army that had maintained the Empire and all that now-superseded stuff, but the situation in Khandahar province was most likely just as manipulated, just as treacherous.

Monday
Jan052015

Mniconjou: The Battle of Little Big Horn, 1876

The Battle of Little Bighorn An Eyewitness Account by the Lakota Chief Red Horse recorded in pictographs and text at the Cheyenne River Reservation, 1881

Unlike the linear arrays of a certain kind of depiction of war, battles and their aftermaths, this set of 26 drawings uses an entirely different narrative form.  The whole set is on an american tribes forum and charts the battle of Little Bighorn in 1876.  There is an accompanying text by Mniconjou, a Lakota chief who was there.  Both the text and the drawings were recorded at the Cheyenne River Reservation in 1881, at the request of McChesney, an army doctor at Fort Bennet collecting material for a study of sign language.  Known as ledger drawings, as they were done in blank ledgers, often with ruled pages, columns and general accounting pencils, this set is on blank paper with an array of coloured pencils, which makes them unusual.

These drawings depict in terrible detail the wounds and mutilations on both sides  – horses die, heads and hands are chopped off – this is ghastly warfare.  But then all warfare is, and it reminds one that most of us, who have never been in a war, hear the statistics on deaths in Syria and never think that it is actually like these drawings.

The Battle of Little Bighorn An Eyewitness Account by the Lakota Chief Red Horse recorded in pictographs and text at the Cheyenne River Reservation, 1881The US Army troops are undistinguishable: they have beards, blue trousers, black hats; their horses wear saddles.  The Lakota nation however is drawn in beautiful detain, the different war bonnets carefully counted, the shields inscribed with totems. The army is a homogenous unit; the Lakota are individuals, carrying their family histories with them.  And what of the horses.  They die as well, their saddles gone just as the army dead have lost their boots.

The previous post's paintings and drawings flatten the space of war into a representative frieze.  These ledger drawings are simultaneously profile and plan.  The top of the page is no less important than the middle or the bottom, all participants are equal in size – there is no re-scaling to fit any laws of perspective.  We have been taught that renaissance perspective gives a scene veracity: distance blurs, makes dim and small.  In these ledger drawings the veracity is more overwhelming, everything is foreground, everything is heroic, nothing is diminished for 'art'.  The frieze drawings gain their power in presenting the line of soldiers, or police, as a clear middle ground with no ameliorating fore or back grounds.  The ledger drawings present similar lines, but many of them and all in the same space of the page showing rank after rank of cavalry and warrior riding toward each other and clashing violently.

I've shown just three of the drawings here, the full set of 26 is both breathtaking and sobering: a tragedy drawing in careful detail.

The Battle of Little Bighorn An Eyewitness Account by the Lakota Chief Red Horse recorded in pictographs and text at the Cheyenne River Reservation, 1881

Saturday
Dec202014

panoplies of war

Robert Longo. Untitled (Ferguson) Diptych, 2014. Photograph: Petzel GallerAfter writing about Robert Longo's drawing of Ferguson, in the previous post, I kept thinking of another battle painting featured on Amanda Vickery's The Story of Woman and Art, Lady Butler's 1874 Calling the Roll.

Elizabeth Thompson, Lady Butler. Calling the Roll After An Engagement, Crimea, 1874. The Royal Collection, London.And this led me to John Singer Sargent's Gassed, of 1918:

John Singer Sargent. Gassed, 1918. The Imperial War Museum, London

From the Civil Rights Movement:

Martin Spider, Troopers charging marchers at the Pettus Bridge, Civil Rights Voting March in Selma, Alabama, March 7, 1965. Reproduced after: Steven Kasher, The Civil Rights Movement: A Photographic History, New York 1996, 179And lastly, because by this time it seems so obvious, the frieze on the entablature of the Parthenon:

Entablature Frieze on the Parthenon, the Acropolis, Athens, Greece. 447-432 BCThere is something about the linear array of warriors that perhaps has its roots in the rendering of the endless wars – war as a permanent state of existence – between gods, states and cities of the eastern Mediterranean.  Sargent's Gassed is an oil painting, but acts visually as a bas-relief: little depth of field here, and what is in the background is a smaller repetition of the foreground. 

Lady Butler is known for a new sensitivity to the reality of war; conventional paintings of British heroism portrayed the heart of battles, all glory and snorting horses, rather than the ongoing grind of war.  The Roll Call showed British soldiers in a state of extreme and weary collapse, after the battle, not in the battle.  The Grenadier Guards are not shown in their full complement, but are crowded into a dark cluster of wounded spirit.  This was the ordinary, unheroic side of war, a depiction unusual for its time.  Now, I cannot find anywhere that says that Lady Butler actually saw a battle. Sargent was there, Longo wasn't, Martin Spider clearly held the camera.  The painting is not necessarily a witness, rather it supplies a narrative needed, politically, by certain groups at the time.  The nineteenth century British Army needed reform, mid-twentieth century America needed suffrage, The Great War needed an ending, early twentieth-century USA needs to re-examine the licence and the impunity given to its institutions of law and order. 

The Parthenon frieze aside as it is included here for its formal structure, in all of these artworks we see the backs of men, the artist is a viewer from a distance, not gassed, not beaten, not weary. The men do not pose for the artist, or as is the unspoken intention, they do not pose for us, thus they do not accuse.  That is left for the artist to do. 

There is a horizontal datum line through the heads in these pieces, above is an empty air, below all is struggling uncertainty. There is no perspective, and perhaps no perspective can possibly justify these scenes.  We are not asked to engage, the precision of the row exludes us, we are forced to simply gaze at the panoply, and this shocks us.  And it shocks us into muteness because the subjects can't or won't hear us. 

Thursday
Dec182014

Robert Longo: Untitled (Ferguson), 2014

Robert Longo. Untitled (Ferguson) Diptych, 2014. Photograph: Petzel Gallery

Robert Longo (Petzel shows his most recent work) has flirted around the edges of political art for a long time, forming a punk band when the Velvet Underground was a punk band, drawing from photographs figures seemingly in some sort of physical angst, an idea he claims from a still from Fassbinder's The American Soldier.  He redraws iconic abstract expressionist works – a photo of his studio shows a Motherwell on the wall. He did album covers; he has an assistant who actually does the details of his drawings – such is the contemporary art process: the artist thinks of the piece, the assistant realises it, the artist finishes it. He directed Johnny Mnemonic; he did a memorable photo shoot for Bottega Veneta. This is a post-70s New York Lou Reed manqué artistic career that appears to be political but perhaps is merely black and white.  And he is married to Barbara Sukowa.  

This 10' long charcoal drawing, Untitled (Ferguson), is redrawn from news coverage of the Ferguson riots.  It is beautiful in a way that black and white photography often is, as is charcoal.  Jonathan Jones in the Guardian is very taken with it, classifying it along with Warhol's silkscreened 'Birmingham Race Riot', 1964, taken from a news photo, Rauschenberg's Dante drawings and Richard Hamilton's Northern Ireland triptych, especially The State.  With Longo, the artist has stepped back somewhat from manipulating the image: this is a straight translation into charcoal from a digital image projected onto a ten-foot sheet of paper.  The process means that it is not a print, it is from the age of reproduction, it is not reproducible.

Jones feels that because Longo chose the image, that makes it significant art, much in the way that Duchamp chose everyday items from which he made art.  I'm not sure that this is a strategy that still holds, a century after Duchamp and the surrealists investigated it.  Longo, and all the rest of us, have a keen eye for the 'significant image'; we are not as graphically naïve as we were during the Civil Rights movement, or the Vietnam War.  The rise of photojournalism, war photographers, and the sheer volume of images of wars and riots and terrible incursions have trained us to read images of war aesthetically.  

Longo's Untitled (Ferguson) is terrifically forbidding and full of foreboding, sobering and monumental — a piece of art to mark the Ferguson travesty of justice and its aftermath, but first of all it is beautiful, romantic even, in its theatrical smokey lighting and its linear array of protagonists, as if the artist simply can't help aestheticising the smell of tear gas.  I suppose I've become cynical in the power of contemporary art to be really angry and this mise-en-scène is about as close as we will get.

Tuesday
Nov112014

Armistice Day 2014

How different our lives, our countries, our world, would be had none of these hundreds of thousands of young men been killed. 

Friday
Aug082014

Charles Stankievech, The Soniferous Aether, 2013

35mm Film Installation
Duration: 10:18 Loop (this is a lower resolution edited trailer – just a taste)

from Stankievech's website:

The Soniferous Æther of The Land Beyond The Land Beyond is a 35mm film installation shot at the northernmost settlement on earth— ALERT Signals Intelligence Station— as part of a series of fieldworks looking at remote outpost architecture, military infrastructure and the embedded landscape. Shot using a computer controlled time‐lapse tracking camera during the winter months, the military spy outpost radiates within a shroud of continuous darkness under a star-pierced canopy harkening an abandoned space station.
He speaks about it as the first panelist in Air | Land | Sea with Charles Stankievech, Kara Uzelman and Cate Rimmer, part of Gallery Hop Vancouver co-presented by the Canadian Art Foundation and the Contemporary Art Society of Vancouver.  This is a tremendously interesting three presentations:
Monday
Jun232014

Black Mountain College

A. Lawrence Kocher, Studies Building, Black Mountain College, Lake Eden, North Carolina. 1941

Black Mountain College, North Carolina, started an interdisciplinary summer arts school at Lake Eden in 1944 during a war, when things rarely start, and continued to throw artists, musicians, dancers and experimental types together through the 1950s.  One of these was Buckminster Fuller who had done his startling dymaxion work in the 1920s and 30s and by the late 1940s mostly taught, did workshops and mentored people.  One of these was Jeffrey Burland Lindsay, an engineer-industrial designer in Montreal who headed up the Buckminster Fuller Research Institute, a grand name which turns out to be Lindsay and Ted Pope in a small space on the Plateau.  One of the summers Fuller was at Black Mountain, Lindsay too was there: the practical fellow to Fuller's inspirational stuff.  They built a 48' geodesic dome in 1948, called by Elaine de Kooning the Supine Dome, as it failed, gracefully.  From the pictures it looks like they were building it out of ribbon.

One Black Mountain listing says 'the college played a formative role in the definition of an American aesthetic and identity in the arts during the 1950s and 1960s'.  It must have done, it appears to have been stacked with emigrés from the Bauhaus, plus Merce Cunningham, John Cage, Willem de Kooning, Josef Albers; there were poets, there were painters, all was possible.  Students included Ray Johnson, Noland, Rauschenberg, Twombly, John Chamberlain — these are the ones I know, there are many others I don't know, but it was clearly seminal, formative, an essential part of American postwar modern art. 

The college was located on Lake Eden, planned in 1938 by Gropius and Breuer but development was suspended during WWII, and then after the war Lawrence Kocher took over the design of the main building. It was built by students and faculty from 1940-41, plus, for sustenance and extra cash, there was a farm and a mica mine.

This is a curious episode in American architectural history, one senses that money was tight, creativity and optimism high, materials were often found, the country itself was in the grip of a military-agricultural complex.  Kocher's austere, Gropius-influenced, minimal campus building, the stamp of which is in Frey's canvas house of the 1930s, and so similar to a wartime barracks, is also not unlike a North Carolina tobacco-drying shed: wood frame, clad in corrugated galvanised steel.  And it has aged like a tobacco-drying shed, leaving behind its bauhaus modernity and revealing its deeper connection to a local vernacular.

This series of images, taken in 2007 at the Lake Eden Campus of the Black Mountain College, focuses on the Studies Building. Designed in 1940 by A. Lawrence Kocher, the building was completed in 1941 and is the largest structure built by the college.