Variations and AI-made Art, Indecisions, and Curators…

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There’s a place (photography) where indecision is interesting, and this is what I’ll use today.

It’s not really about indecision, it’s “decision displacement”.

A photographer often takes many pictures of a scene, and then chooses one. We all know the contact sheets, with crosses for nays:

In the ending end, you get ONE portrait, ONE place: one photograph. It’s about “content curation”. You have to choose one.

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But of course, some artists just don’t. They opt “not to choose”, they show a few pictures.

The simple idea of showing a “contact sheet” was already in itself a variation game. It puts the audience in the position of the curator: “What would YOU choose?”. Something else, probably…

3

I wrote an article somewhere about Depardon and Shore.

A/ The French photographer shows two pictures in a street in the city of Glasgow. A slightly different angle, different time of the day, different weather. You compare, you watch, and you wonder: why both? What do these picture offer? What do they show? What does the photographer want?

It’s a bit as if the photographer was talking to you. “You see this place? What should I do? This chimney and this crane, they’re cool, right?”.

B/ The American photographer says this too, but to himself: somewhere, there’s only one place from which he’d take a picture. And thus each of his photos are like “magnetic”, there’s a perfection in lines, light, energy…

So you see this picture, and not another one:

Stephen Shore. Image from Steel Town

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In the history of Arts, some artists like to offer variations too. They turn around things, like Monet with haystacks or Picasso with tomato plants.

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I’ve always loved pictures but I don’t know how to draw, thus I made plenty of photos, and I collected books – today I’m able to make cool images with prompts and Artificial Intelligence. The skills needed are all about words, how to use them and describe things to get pictures.

In this field, people are always seeking a kind of perfection. Crisp, detailed, perfect pictures. There is a huge catalog of examples at https://lexica.art/

There are programs that can “batch” pictures, so when I make castles, I make 1000 pictures, because styles are fun to explore. These are “combinations” of words and styles.

But with a single prompt, one can also makes plenty of images, and each one will be different from the others, like these towers:

The wind:

Robots:

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So well, there’s a tool for the spirit here.

When you work on a project (at school, in your company, etc), do you come up with one result? A few variations? Plenty of variations? Who’s the curator? You, in your head, or the client/student/customer? When is it a mistake?

I realized, when I began to work for other people, that my idea of showing plenty of things to the collaborator is a mistake. Then often don’t want to choose.

But sometimes you have to let them choose all the same! Because they don’t know what they want? Because they need to be disturbed by the fact they will HAVE TO choose?

And, you’ll be surprised by their choice…

Thanks for reading!

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You can watch Depardon’s book on YT:

Photography: Brussels, Belgium, in October

Photography: Brussels, Belgium, in October.

I live in Lille, North of France. As you can see on the map, Belgium is a small neighbour, a friendly one. During the week-ends, many people from France go visite Belgium… and vice versa!

Here are, absolutely untouched, pictures of parks and streets, evenings and railroads.

Have a great day!

Photography: “La Dordogne”, a French river

Photography: “La Dordogne”, a French river. How to photograph a river? She’s like the lady you’re in love with: she’s complex, multiple, given, elusive, clear, dark, changing and marvellous. What do I choose? The light? Water? Trees? Rocks? Here are 14 pictures of La Dordogne, near the little town of Carsac.

My big problem with landscape and urban photography

I have a big problem with landscape and urban photography. I chose 5 examples for you, randomly in Google Images. I call this problem the “Intention of Effect“.

Long pauses transform cars into lines. Choosing sunset time gives “interesting” colours to the mountains. Using a drone makes you fly and shows lines. Putting the camera on the ground brings “interesting” lines and reflections.

Well, in each of these pictures I FEEL the photographer’s will, which seems to YELL at me “I AM SMART HAVE YOU SEEN IT?”. Yeah, I’ve seen it, buddy.

Each time I see one picture like this (and they are a majority), I’m rolling eyes. I’m like : “Okey little man, I see what you do”; and this is ABSOLUTELY boring.

Intention of effect kills effect.

This is not art, no art at all. It’s all waxywet, schmaltzy and wishy-washy, it is not gorgeous: it’s ridiculous and I’m already out, goodbye.

The contrary of all this monkey arounding appeared in the 70s with Stephen Shore and William Eggleston.

They knew the “pretty” urban or landscape pictures were ridiculous, and very, very far behind the Art Movement.

They had to find another way to show cities and nature. To stop being a show-off little idiot.

So they experimented a more neutral “way”, becoming an amateur-beginner, or becoming a tech-photographer. I think they wanted to show us the mood of a place, or maybe to be precise, or maybe they simply wanted to stop appearing like a smart-ass “look how I’m good” photographer. How to achieve that?

Of course they began to take pictures of the ordinary, empty urban spaces, parking lots, roads and houses. This was much more interesting and “charged” with the sense of a place.

I chose some Stephen Shore‘s pictures. This man makes my eyes stop. I want to wander on the photography. I (ain’t it strange)… breathe. I almost understand WHY the guy stopped there. This shadow. These lines. An horizon. The light of the day!

You’ll find many texts, articles and interviews about him and his influence on the web. Have fun!

Photography: The roofs of Sarlat, PĂ©rigord, France

Sarlat-La-CanĂ©da is a medieval town in France, near Bordeaux. Yes, it’s a good place to drink wine and eat meals made of ducks and geese (confits and all).

Today I choose to show you the roofs. I took many pictures thus you’ll see streets, forests, rivers and… the cemetery.

I added a little Poulenc because it’s my little obsession of the time.

Have a good day!

Music Chronicles 7: Drip Drip & Fan

I wanted, at the beginning, to sound like English New Wave from the eighties, but I added some percs, and a piano, and I lost everything about this, so there.

I tried many ways to sing the words, then the “Watch it drip, wait for it”, and failed. This is why I whispered all of it.

Really, I like to destroy the usual structure of a song. This is why it doesn’t verse/chorus. This is why I changed the beat in 1’44”, mutation, towards a “walking thing”.

It’s again about “modulation in the 4th bar”, and I think the reason this song exists is in the two guitars in the end.

I used old picture of my mom’s garden in the rain.

Eventail means “fan”, it’s a very complex poem from MallarmĂ©, which is really funny to interpret. Again, the usual song structure is melted. I added some tunnels with rockets of sound, which lead to this synth sound I love.

I tripled my voice I had to sing very low. The end brings a sweet chaos.

Same garden, another year: rain, birds, insects.

Eventail

De frigides roses pour vivre
Toutes la mĂŞme interrompront
Avec un blanc calice prompt
Votre souffle devenu givre

Mais que mon battement délivre
La touffe par un choc profond
Cette frigidité se fond
En du rire de fleurir ivre

A jeter le ciel en détail
VoilĂ  comme bon Ă©ventail
Tu conviens mieux qu’une fiole

Nul n’enfermant Ă  l’Ă©meri
Sans qu’il y perde ou le viole
L’arĂ´me Ă©manĂ© de MĂ©ry.

Google translates:

Fan

Frigid roses to live

All the same will interrupt

With a white prompt chalice

Your breath turned to frost

But let my beat deliver

The tuft by a deep shock

This frigidity melts

In the laughter of blooming drunk

To throw the sky in detail

Here is a good fan

You are better suited than a vial

No one enclosing with emery

Without losing or violating it

The aroma emanating from MĂ©ry.

Someone tries this:

Fan
Belonging to MĂ©ry Laurent

Frigid roses to exist
all alike will interrupt
your frosted breath
with a quick white calyx
but should my fluttering liberate
the whole bunch with a profound shock
that frigidity will melt into the laughter
of a rapturous blossoming
see how like a good fan
you are better than a phial
at carving the sky into fragments
no flask could be stoppered
without losing or violating
the fragrance of MĂ©ry.

“OK, that’s good, why?” and how we look into it.

What do you listen to in a song?

  • Melodies, harmony, structure, voices, bass, guitars, keyboards, drums, originality, energy, lyrics, production?

What do you watch in a photography or a painting?

  • Colors, details, meaning, characters, originality, lines, atmosphere, size, composition?

What do you watch in a book?

  • Progression, story, characters, style, words, originality, phrases?

What do you watch in a movie?

  • Scenario, editing, characters, frames, camera work, action, sense of place, composition, music?

And in architecture, poetry, marketing?

It’s not exactly how we “watch” something, but how we stop in front of something and try to understand where the pleasure comes from. A little bit more like:

“OK that’s good, why? – let’s look into it”.

My choices upstairs are bolded. Lyrics are probably important when I discover a track, BUT I always try to understand the structure, I listen to the bass player, and harmony progressions and changes. More than melodies, or the song’s energy.

In front of a painting that stops me, I want to know “what did the painter want?”. Same from photography, or movies. I dig into (or try to imagine) how the artist dealt with the audience.

So, well, it’s a matter of empathy, or structures/skeletons, of what’s hidden. Nobody listens to the bass, nor really cares about a photo’s composition. It’s all about the singer or the lead guitar, it’s all about colors and “events”.

What I choose to look into tells a lot.

Therefore I think that it is a good exercise when we meet someone, to watch and listen and ask: “What do you like in this? Why?”.

This “says” something about the person. If they are an empath or not, if they’re a thinker or not, fast or slow, surfacing or diving, heavy or light…

Thanks for reading!

Thomas Struth, German photographer

Thomas Struth, born in 1954, is a German photographer.

I read about him (he loves museums, he loves “series” of photos, he shows large formats) and I watched his pictures, but I couldn’t find or decide why I stayed… but I stayed, and kept exploring his work.

This tropism, when you discover something, you don’t know why you insist exploring it, because obviously you don’t know why you like it, but you like it!

Is it because of this street :

Or this road :

Or these people watching… what :

Or this city :

Like Jeff Wall, he :

These photos stop me. They have something I don’t understand.

I have this inner smile.

Well, I think I’ll need a book…

Thanks for reading!

Ambiguity & Types : Chronicle 59

A few years ago I read an interview of a teacher, he was smart and interesting. The last question from the journalist triggered a shift, though. What was bothering him? His answer was a surprise. It was something like:

“What bothers me is that in every class I taught in my career I found the same typology, with very little variations : in every classroom of 15 years old students, you find a sporty, a fat kid, a funny idiot, an angry rebel, an introvert girl, a shy blond, a dreamer, a goth, a nerd. That’s boring!”.

“I empty my head in front of stupid TV”.

Hmmm?

How TF do you translate a Style? There’s a witchy case:

Marguerite Duras was a French writer with a very special style. It’s difficult… even to define it! And of course it’s a part of her wizardry.

It’s between spoken language and a modest incantatory style. It’s full of mistakes, like a dyslexic person with strokes of genius. It’s gorgeous, blazing and magic… and completely quirky at the same time.

Therefore when you read Duras you have to let go something, a logical normal way to accept narration. It’s audacious, fascinating, it swallows you in a strange, new rhythm – a words-witch!

I really wonder how people in the USA consider the people of other states

I wanted to write an article about “mean quotes about women”. Here are some :

Women show up and they cling to you and they destroy you
Thomas Bernhard

Beware when you’re caught in a woman’s dreams
Gilles Deleuze

What does that mean? That these guys were afraid? Afraid of what? A power? Are men defenseless?

I read a book about ambiguity in architecture, therefore I wanted to write “At once This and That, the pleasure of ambiguity”.

Ambiguity is when you can’t decide if this is something or something else. In buildings : a window, a corridor, stairs, everything can be two things at the same time.

Of course it TELLS something, that some architects want, seek this. They hate minimalism, the obvious “clean” thing. They love what I think is the essence of modernity :

To make something to make people wonder and smile, instead of making people say “Ohhh that’s beautiful”.

Zola about Manet

Of course I love this! Things (and us) can be this AND that, we can juxtapose, rotate, double-fonction, adapt. It’s enrichment, intelligence, faces. A door can decorate. A cook can be a musician. The superfluous is necessary…

Haecceity

Incompleteness gives untranquility.

  • Game of desires (I want what I don’t have), I buy it, it kills desire for a moment. A loop and a dodge.
  • Incompleteness born from boredom : “what can I do I don’t know what to do something is lacking but what”.
  • Media pressure to be rich or famous or happy.
  • Desire to be valued by people around, or… the world, and nobody really cares.
  • Linked to “lost childhood”, nostalgia from great old days that didn’t even exist.
  • Fado, Saudade…

How to adapt? What is adaptation? When is it positive, or negative?

Thanks for reading!

Fellini Roma / Sternfeld Rome after Rome

Joel Sternfeld (born 1944) is an American photographer I love. He made this book, “American Prospects”, which is maybe the greatest photography book I own!

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His last one is about Rome, he focuses “on the ruins of grand structures”, putting these in relation with… today!

The editor says : “with a clear warning: great civilizations fall, ours may too”. Yeah, but I disagree. What I see is a continuous presence of the past, in ruins of splendid architecture, the today-reality invaded with the ordinary (people and their “things”, who seem to ignore the past). There’s no warning here, though it’s probably a little sarcastic…

Each photography has the “sense of the place”, shows a spotmood, but it’s also like a game : spotting where is the old villa, the aqueduct, weaving an ugly link between the old past and the now…

Here are some examples.

52_2_Grandeur

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This one is a masterpiece :

JS_Via Appia Nuova.jpg

https://www.moma.org/artists/5656

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I’m French and I can say I’m obsessed with three countries : Russia, Italy, and the USA. I’m currently finishing a long study of Fellini’s work.

Fellini’s Roma (1972) is a strange movie, let’s ask Wiki (I bolded the bold) : “It is a homage to the city, shown in a series of loosely connected episodes set during both Rome’s past and present. The plot is minimal, and the only “character” to develop significantly is Rome herself.”

Kaleidoscopic it is : a traffic jam (one of the most incredible scene I’ve seen in my life!), a guesthouse, brothels, a vaudeville theatre, streets, tunnels, catacombs, a liturgical fashion show, tourists… “The film concludes with a group of young motorcyclists riding into the city and a melancholic shot of actress Anna Magnani, whom the film crew met in the street”.

And again, the constant weaving between the past and the now, the ruins and the typical Italian “energy”, gives an interesting energy. Again, the old stones seem alive, watching us in silence…

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OK you know me : I extract a tool here, which is “In a piece of work, of art, you show two different things and you let the audience weave between both”. Where (poetry, photography, teaching, marketing)? How? What appears? What for? What do you want? Nostalgia? Denunciation? Shock? Thinking?

Have fun! Thanks for reading! Stay home!

JP

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