Sunday, March 28, 2010

AIPAD and the Met

Last Friday I spent the day in New York. The afternoon was spent in sensory overload at the Association of International Photography Art Dealers show at the Park Avenue Armory. Our group of Philly-area photo conservators played a game while at the show: you have $5,000 - what piece or pieces do you buy for your institution? I had too many selected and exceeded my budget. Not my fault my favorite all cost $3,500-ish.

We also spent the morning at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, lunching with the Met photo conservation peeps and checking out the current photo exhibits, Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage and Surface Tension: Contemporary Photographs from the Collection.

There were some interesting things in the contemporary show, but I feel like I've seen several of the works already in the not-too-distant past. This was my favorite piece from the contemporary show, a really massive cyanotype (51 1/2 x 99 inches) by Christian Marclay. Which I think I've seen exhibited in this gallery once before in the last two or three years.

We all really enjoyed the photocollage show: it was all very Hieronymous Bosch, Alice in Wonderland-esque. It also had the best use of computers in a exhibit that I have ever seen. All of these pieces were originally in bound manuscripts. You can remove pages for exhibit, but it is not something that is done without serious consideration because you are fundamentally altering the nature and context of the object. But the problem of leaving the pages bound is that you cannot make all the pages available at once. There were pages framed on the walls, and several vitrines with albums scattered throughout. Each page of each album had been photographed, and visitors could sit at one of the four computers and digitally flip through the album, zooming in on details, reading the accompanying explanations. I thought it was very well done: the computers were busy the entire time we were there.

From the Westmorland Album, 1864/70, assembled by Victoria Alexandra Anderson-Pelham, Countess of Yarborough, and Eva Macdonald (belonging to the J. Paul Getty Museum).

From the Bouverie Album, 1872/77, assembled by some combination of Elizabeth, Ellen, Jane, and/or Janet Pleydell-Bouverie (belonging to the George Eastman House)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Art Handling Olympics

The other day The New York Times had a short article and a fun photo-essay about the art handling olympics. Check the links out: we had a good laugh about it at work the other day (links in the above text.)

Image from the NYT, competitors during the "Static Hold" event - holding a 50-60 pound framed sheet of lead in place, while a 'curator' alternated between yelling at them and ignoring them.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Taryn Simon at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia

On Wednesday evening, I attended a lecture at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. The lecture was sponsored by the College's Section on Medicine and the Arts. It was organized by a boyfriend of one of the book conservators at the Centre, so all the bulletin boards at the Centre had fliers and several of other conservators and conservation technicians attended.

From the website: the College of Physicians of Philadelphia was founded in 1787 and is the oldest professional medical organization in the country. Twenty-four physicians of eighteenth-century Philadelphia gathered "to advance the science of medicine and to thereby lessen human misery." Today, over 1,500 Fellows (elected members) continue to convene at the College and work towards better serving the public.

The College of Physicians also houses the creepy medical-oddity Mutter Museum (which was closed - someday I'll visit, probably with Liang). The building is also really beautiful, though you can't really tell from this photograph of it, which I pilfered from another place on the interwebs.

The lecture in question was given by the photographer Taryn Simon, a Guggenheim Fellow and an Assignment Photographer for the New York Times Magazine. She presented a number of slides from her recent project and publication "An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar." Her photography is large-format, and this series of images focused on things not accessible to the general public. Her process involves procuring permission to photograph in these locations, composing a compelling image, and creating an accompanying factual text for the photographs. The images and text below are from her website and are part of "An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar."

Research Marijuana Crop Grow Room, National Center for Natural Products Research, Oxford, Mississippi
The National Center for Natural Products Research (NCNPR) is the only facility in the United States which is federally licensed to cultivate cannabis for scientific research. In addition to cultivating cannabis, NCNPR is responsible for analyzing seized marijuana for potency trends, herbicide residuals (paraquat) and fingerprint identification. NCNPR is licensed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and also researches and develops chemicals derived from plants, marine organisms, and other natural products.

While 11 states have legalized the medical use of marijuana, a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision allows for the arrest of any individual caught using it for this purpose. Nearly half of the annual arrests for drug violations involve marijuana possession or trafficking.

Cryopreservation Unit, Cryonics Institute, Clinton Township, Michigan
The Cryonics Institute offers cryostasis (freezing) services for individuals and pets upon death. Cryostasis is practiced with the hope that lives will ultimately be extended through future developments in science, technology, and medicine. When, and if, these developments occur, Institute members hope to awake to an extended life in good health, free from disease or the aging process. Cryostasis must begin immediately upon legal death. A person or pet is infused with ice-preventive substances and quickly cooled to a temperature where physical decay virtually stops. The Cryonics Institute charges $28,000 for cryostasis if it is planned well in advance of legal death and $35,000 on shorter notice.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Contraband Room, John F. Kennedy International Airport, Queens, New York
All items in the photograph were seized from the baggage of passengers arriving in the U.S. at JFK Terminal 4 from abroad over a 48-hour period. All seized items are identified, dissected, and then either ground up or incinerated. JFK processes more international passengers than any other airport in the United States.

Nuclear Waste Encapsulation and Storage Facility Cherenkov Radiation, Hanford Site, U.S. Department of Energy, Southeastern Washington State
Submerged in a pool of water at Hanford Site are 1,936 stainless-steel nuclear-waste capsules containing cesium and strontium. Combined, they contain over 120 million curies of radioactivity. It is estimated to be the most curies under one roof in the United States. The blue glow is created by the Cherenkov Effect which describes the electromagnetic radiation emitted when a charged particle, giving off energy, moves faster than light through a transparent medium. The temperatures of the capsules are as high as 330 degrees Fahrenheit. The pool of water serves as a shield against radiation; a human standing one foot from an unshielded capsule would receive a lethal dose of radiation in less than 10 seconds. Hanford is among the most contaminated sites in the United States.