Mood of the day : Portishead, SOS

I know, not very cheerful, but…

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Erwin Olaf, The Siege and Relief of Leiden, 2011

Because it’s been a week I am in quarantine at home due to an unexpected chicken pox, and I start to feel better only now, I wanted to share today, the photographic series of Erwin Olaf, The Siege and Relief of Leiden, 2011.

Commissioned by Leiden University and the municipal Museum De Lakenhal in Netherlands, it commemorates one of biggest victory in the 80 years’ war (1568 to 1648) of the Dutch revolts fighting their independence towards the Catholic kingdom of Spain

In order to fully appreciate the pictures, it is crucial to understand the historical context of what the artist tried to represent:

From many centuries, this part of Europe was controlled by the Hasburg family, and thus became part of the Spanish crown, under the reign of Habsburg Charles V, king of Spain.
Spain was during the 16th C., the greatest power in Europe (if not in the world), but this didn’t stop many Dutch provinces to revolt more and more. As a consequence, when King Philip II succeeded to Charles V, he sent the Duke of Alva to govern there and fight these rebellious cities.

Leiden was then loyal to the Spanish crown, but when the Duke started to implement laws challenging the freedom of religion (Dutch are largely protestant and the Spanish catholic) the city quickly followed the rebellion guided by William of Orange (Willem van Oranje).

In response, the Duke, who already been defeated in Alkmaar and Haarlem, sent the general Francisco de Valdés to force Leiden to surrender. We are in 1573.

The Spanish troops were weaken by the loss of the precedent defeats, and instead of taking the city by force, they decided then to siege the town forcing the population to capitulate by starving them.

It took several months, before the first signs of famine appear, but then, quickly so the dysentery and the plague.

The city of Leiden lost half of its population in less than a year (more than 6000 people died of the plague itself!), and even if many were ready to surrender, the population could communicate via carrier pigeons with William of Orange, who urged them to hold on.

In October 1574, William of Orange and the Rebel troops (formed by Dutchmen, but also English, Scottish and Huguenot French) finally succeed to free them using the geography of this low-lying land, cutting the dikes, but especially helped by the weather, forcing the Spaniards to run away, panicked by the rising waters.

This is an amazing and epic piece of European history (and I haven’t been into the details!) but I find it very surprising that no movie (as far as I know) has been made about it!!!??

Anyway! Knowing now the whole story, we can better appreciate the visual works of Erwin Olaf.

Using mainly Leiden born model, the photograph created seven pictures: one monumental historical piece focusing on the siege itself, 4 portraits of some protagonists and two still life, all beautiful made at the manner of a Dutch painting of the 16-17thC.

The historical piece is one of its kind in photography.
Very large (over 2 x 3 metres), it is gruesome, narrative, and we are simply absorbed by the story that is happening in front of us: the starvation and plague at first sight, where dead bodies are everywhere, children eating a dead dog, soldiers far in the background and where the only hope comes from the white pigeon in the middle of the composition.

The monumental piece is now at the Museum De Lakenhal while the portraits and still lifes are at the Leiden University collections.
You may see the whole series (with zooming details!) on the artist website here.

Erin Olaf, Liberty, Plague and Hunger during the siege of Leiden, 2011

Erwin Olaf, Liberty, Plague and Hunger during the siege of Leiden, 2011

Erwin Olaf, Magdalena Moons, 2011

Erwin Olaf, Magdalena Moons, 2011

Erwin Olaf, Plague Doctor, 2011

Erwin Olaf, Plague Doctor, 2011

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Erwin Olaf, Still Life (Beggars’ attributes), 2011

Sofia Hultén, Fuck it up and start again (one guitar smashed and mended 7 times), 2001

Let’s start today with Fuck it up and start again (one guitar smashed and mended 7 times), 2001 from Sofia Hultén.
I am normally not a big fan of happening and other video of such (I usually pass quickly in front of it during art fair/exhibition…), but how not to be captivated by the concept, energy and title?

Unlike the rock star smashing for good its artistic medium, using a language of self-destruction and provocation, here, the artist repairs it, smash it again and on repeat. Therefore, the emphasis is not much on the action only but also on the object itself: she doesn’t use another guitar, but give to this object, life and death, in a word: history and that’s exactly why this anthropomorphism is captivating.

Plus, by exploring in her works the concept of reconstruction of everyday objects, she actually succeed to reverse at its best the concept of ready-made art. Brilliant.

Images © Sophia Hulten

The Audubon Mural Project

Created in October 2014, this brilliant project aim to raise awareness for endangered and climate-threatened species of birds via graffiti art / murals in New York City.

This idea came after the Audubon Report of the same year, which reveals that 314 (yes, 314!!!) native North American avian species are in serious danger because of climate changing.

Maybe because images are sometimes stronger than words, the National Audubon Society liaised with Gitler &_____ Gallery to create this eye-catching project aiming now to depict every one of the species on the list forming a meaningful outdoor gallery.

Artists from different nationalities participate, but also landlords, business owners: everyone is more than welcome to contribute.

And the result (either big or small) is always stunning and colourful!

Please have a look on their website here for more detailed information and more pictures.
Photo © : Mike Fernandez, Camilla Cerea/National Audubon Society

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Peter Daverington, Bald Eagle, 2014

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Graham Preston, Mallard, 2014

ashli-sisk-black-chinned-hummingbird-2015

Ashli Sisk, Black-Chinned Hummingbird, 2015

jason-covert-brown-pelicans-2015

Jason Covert, Brown Pelicans, 2015

The sexy art works of Ghada Amer and Reza Farkhondeh.

Today is Monday, it’s raining, it’s cold, trains were delayed this morning (again!), no time for breakfast, oyster cards top up machine were broken,… so in order to change our minds, let’s share the highly sexy works born of the collaboration of the artists Ghada Amer and Reza Farkhondeh.

Cooperation between artists is already rather unusual in the art field, but here, works are travelling back and forth between their separated studio where they simultaneously reveal and conceal each other’s images.

In this fusion, we still recognise the sensibility and vision of each artist : Ghada already famous for exploring gender and female sexuality in her art, and Reza for the natural elements.

Plus, this mix of sexy female figures with cartoon characters, Hindu deities, passages of Arabic scripts (Ghada is born in Egypt and Reza in Iran), patterns of flowers… reveals also a superb intermingling between East and West.

Happy Monday ! 🙂

ghada-amer-and-reza-farkhondeh-el-amor-de-la-rosa-roja-2012

Ghada Amer and Reza Farkhondeh, El Amor de la Rosa Roja, 2012

ghada-amer-and-reza-farkhondeh-die-leiden-des-jungen-werther-2012

Ghada Amer and Reza Farkhondeh, Die Leiden des jungen Werther, 2012

ghada-amer-and-reza-farkhondeh-age-of-innocence-2012

Ghada Amer and Reza Farkhondeh, Age of innocence, 2012

ghada-amer-and-reza-farkhondeh-aphrodites-and-the-white-rose-2012

Ghada Amer and Reza Farkhondeh, Aphrodites and the White Rose, 2012

ghada-amer-and-reza-farkhondeh-the-sun-is-sinking-in-the-west-2012

Ghada Amer and Reza Farkhondeh, The Sun is Sinking in the West, 2012

Images © Tina Kim Gallery, New York / © CHEIM & READ Gallery