Contour by Getty Images Portrait Prize

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Contour for Getty Images asked us to let our readers know that they are accepting applicants for the first annual Getty Images Portrait Prize. The winner will be determined by a panel of distinguished judges, led by photographer Peter Lindbergh. The winner will receive a grant of $10,000 and a exhibition of their work at Polka Galerie in Paris.

Applicants must submit 10-20 images from their portrait work (either individual images or a series) along with a biography, brief explanation of their approach to portraiture, and description of what they would like to accomplish in their careers, (each in 1000 words or less). The prize is open to photographers with less than five years of professional experience. The deadline is August 5, and the winner will be announced in October.

Marie-Louise Mogensen In Conversation

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A mutual friend suggested I meet Marie-Louise Mogensen when she was in New York last year. She showed up for our lunch at Reynaud’s toting a big bag of clothes from her Baserange, all of which she insisted I keep. They were mostly the wrong size, because our friend had told her I was much skinnier than I really am – flattering, but in this case totally disapoointing. The pieces that did fit, however, I have worn again and again. I truly love basic pieces, and these are simple, beautifully made, and when I wear them I always think of the generosity behind the gift from someone who was a stranger. I have since gotten to know her children’s line as well, Popupshop, which has the same clean, well-made feeling as her adult line, but with a friendly, playful spin. Over the course of our lunch that day we talked about creativity, motherhood, relationships, and their relationship to one another, and by the end I’d been invited to come stay at Marie-Louise’s house in Copenhagen, even if she wasn’t there. She struck me as a true creative, an artist working in the medium of clothing, and a genuine and thoughtful person. I was very curious to hear more about her background and here I asked her a few questions.

Skye Parrott: Can you tell me a little about your background? How did you grow up?

Marie-Louise Mogensen: I grew up in two homes, at home with my mom in the countryside and on the weekends at my dad in a city. At my mom’s she made everything herself – there was no tv, and she is pretty limitless as to what you can do or say. At my dad’s I watched cartoons and MTV, and if I have any manners today, they come from him. My dad has always traveled a lot and I remember getting his postcards, dreaming of that. I think growing up in two homes gave me the feeling that there is no one way of doing things.

Skye: How did you come to be involved in clothing?

Marie-Louise: As my mother basically made everything, she also made my clothes and always involved me in the process. But I was not really as interested in clothing as much as I was in magazines or printed things of any kind. As a kid I read lots of comic books and that changed into more lifestyle and fashion magazines as I became a teenager. I think I did not really become interested in clothing until I started to read magazines like The Face, iD, Italian Vogue, and saw Wolfgang Tillmans. Images and clothes merged more for me because of that and I began to see clothes as an artistic format.

Skye: What was the process once you came to be interested in clothing? I often find that people come to fashion from disparate paths. Did you study fashion or art or design, or did you come to it another way?

Marie-Louise: I studied art and graphic design, and I think most stories for me begins with an image. I really believe that what we see and say are a strong part of how we direct our lives and that is a big responsibility for whoever is sending something out, not to pin us down as human beings. I saw that either I could work with companies and try and sell them my version or I could start something myself. I never had and still don’t have a clear dream about doing clothes  - the dream is more to try and create a feeling in different formats that can be part of life and our world right now.

Skye: When did you launch your first collection?

Marie-Louise: Luca (the father of my kids) and I made our first collection for the kids in autumn/winter 2006.

Skye: Can you tell me a little about how it came into being?

Marie-Louise: Luca and I had just had our second child when I finished school. While I was nursing Roberta we started talking about doing something together, as we were both attached to the thought of having a mobile family unit we could move because we were our own work. For a long time Luca had wanted to do a basic line, one with absolutely no details – just fabric and cut. And I really wanted to work on an identity for a younger family brand with as little retouching as possible, where kids did not have to wear pink or blue, be colorful or be happy.

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Everybody Loves Urs

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In the art world, the site of construction is commonly a guarded one, kept far from the immaculacy of the site of presentation. This custom does not entirely hold true in the retrospective of Urs Fischer held at Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art, MOCA. This dichotomy in fact is prevalent in the site both actually and atmospherically. This sense of undoing acts in both the unconventional curation and in the works themselves. The curation wholly feels intuitive more than methodical. This curation forms a retrospective that acts both as a platform and a site of presentation for a working artist.

Being a retrospective, a standard chronological curation, and placement of work is expected. Whereas, here works ranging from the mid 1990s to present are shown alongside one another. Sometimes works are presented in a truly spatially subversive manner nearly melding to form a greater instillation like space. This conception is most visible in the secondary museum space, the Geffen Contemporary, where Fischer conducted a vast collaborative project. The project was composed by fifteen hundred volunteers whom dined with the artist and were asked to produce figures and animals in clay.

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The contrast of sites and sensibilities runs through the main exhibition space as well. Here paint seeps down walls and stains floors suggesting the artist’s studio or remnants of production. Strikingly in the premier gallery space a large section of a wall has been cut out and removed. Fischer famously dug in the Gavin Brown gallery’s floor in his 2007 installation ‘You’. The wall removal, while being destructive, is akin to land art and minimalism in its artful drama. In front of the hole in the wall is a vivid orange nude female sculpture propped on a table with a puddle of orange beneath the figure’s feet. The piece has a decomposing, liquefying, ruptured appearance yet in its vivacious color and sexuality provokes an aura of pop spectacle. The tarnished fantasy of the piece is visibly attached to the artist’s use of dichotomy. Yet the presence of the puddle like the seeping paint on the walls also plays into the expressionistic, gestural elements Fischer utilizes. The dissolving quality of the figure itself points to the morbidity that runs through many works as well.

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Mr. Clean

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This was published last year but I was re-reading it again today and it just made me laugh so hard. Especially because I have been known to listen to pop music in my kitchen at times. I also just love the line about spoons. What is that even about? Anyway, in case you missed it, here in its full glory is Werner Herzog’s letter to his cleaning lady written by Dale Shaw.

‘Rosalina. Woman.

You constantly revile me with your singular lack of vision. Be aware, there is an essential truth and beauty in all things. From the death throes of a speared gazelle to the damaged smile of a freeway homeless. But that does not mean that the invisibility of something implies its lack of being. Though simpleton babies foolishly believe the person before them vanishes when they cover their eyes during a hateful game of peek-a-boo, this is a fallacy. And so it is that the unseen dusty build up that accumulates behind the DVD shelves in the rumpus room exists also. This is unacceptable.

I will tell you this Rosalina, not as a taunt or a threat but as an evocation of joy. The joy of nothingness, the joy of the real. I want you to be real in everything you do. If you cannot be real, then a semblance of reality must be maintained. A real semblance of the fake real, or “real”. I have conquered volcanoes and visited the bitter depths of the earth’s oceans. Nothing I have witnessed, from lava to crustacean, assailed me liked the caked debris haunting that small plastic soap hammock in the smaller of the bathrooms. Nausea is not a sufficient word. In this regard, you are not being real.

Now we must turn to the horrors of nature. I am afraid this is inevitable. Nature is not something to be coddled and accepted and held to your bosom like a wounded snake. Tell me, what was there before you were born? What do you remember? That is nature. Nature is a void. An emptiness. A vacuum. And speaking of vacuum, I am not sure you’re using the retractable nozzle correctly or applying the ‘full weft’ setting when attending to the lush carpets of the den. I found some dander there.

I have only listened to two songs in my entire life. One was an aria by Wagner that I played compulsively from the ages of 19 to 27 at least 60 times a day until the local townsfolk drove me from my dwelling using rudimentary pitchforks and blazing torches. The other was Dido. Both appalled me to the point of paralysis. Every quaver was like a brickbat against my soul. Music is futile and malicious. So please, if you require entertainment while organizing the recycling, refrain from the ‘pop radio’ I was affronted by recently. May I recommend the recitation of some sharp verse. Perhaps by Goethe. Or Schiller. Or Shel Silverstein at a push.

The situation regarding spoons remains unchanged. If I see one, I will kill it.

That is all. Do not fail to think that you are not the finest woman I have ever met. You are. And I am including on this list my mother and the wife of Brad Dourif (the second wife, not the one with the lip thing). Thank you for listening and sorry if parts of this note were smudged. I have been weeping.

Your money is under the guillotine.

Herzog’

Throwing Stones

Milla Jovovich

For the Venice Biennale, actress Milla Jojovich teamed up with the artist Tara Subkoff to create a performance piece based around our ideas of capitalism and extreme consumer culture. For six hours each day Milla lived in a glass house outfitted with only a computer, tablet and a smartphone. During the piece she communicated with the outside world only through these outlets. In that communication, she ‘ordered’ packages designed by artists such as Jeff Koons, Ed Ruscha, Yoko Ono, Barbara Kruger, Richard Phillips, Julian Schnabel, Karen Kilimnik, John Baldessari, Cecily Brown, and Rikrit Tiravanigja in partnership with Art Production Fund. Eventually, the packages filled up the space squashing Milla and saying something larger about hyper-interactivity in our modern world. Just yesterday at the Farmers Market I was thinking about how the invention of Square has made local markets easier to shop at- a thought that in itself belies my generational thinking and personal relationship towards currency. I think this piece examines the question as to whether making things easier for us to purchase actually is better? One of the inspirations for this piece came from the scientist David Graber who said, “An average woman will subconsciously or consciously see over 3,000 ads everyday and will spend three years of her life watching tv commercials. She is told to buy new and be new. This, of course, is impossible. Consumption can not turn back the clock…the more fuel, the larger the flame…the brighter the flame.” Something to think about the next time you go shopping online, perhaps?

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Hippie Hill

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On a recent expedition in search of that moment in life when nothing is sure and everything is transient, I ended up in San Francisco on one of the city’s favorite holidays: 4/20. I was greeted by thousands of people who had flocked to Hippie Hill in Golden Gate Park to spend the day enjoying marijuana, sunshine and friends. I set out to take portraits of those who seemed to embody the spirit of searching and seeking. What these people are seeking is unclear, but their journey feels present. They represent a fleeting moment in time where responsibility seems unfathomable and here and now feels like forever. These are the faces of the people I met that day – those not experienced enough to be wise and  hungry enough to be foolish.

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The Portrait Machine Project

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Carlo van de Roer has spent the last several years photographing people with an aura camera. Developed in the 1970′s by an American scientist, the attempt is to record what a psychic might see. The subject is connected to the modified Polaroid Land camera by sensors measuring electromagnetic biofeedback. Readings are generated, which are translated into a printed description of the aura, as well as the images you see here. This printout is presented to the viewer along with each photograph in a similar manner to a caption.

Carlo has photographed some familar faces (like Miranda July, Terrence Koh, and Martynka Wawrzyniak, seen here), as well as some of his closest friends and family members. The results have been collected into a new edition by Daimani. There will be a book signing tomorrow night, May 30, from 7-9 pm at the Jade Hotel, 52 West 13 St., NYC.

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Santa Rosalina

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Photographer Linda Brownlee and native Sicilian stylist Aisling Farinella spent Easter creating a portrait of Palermo using models, street cast from local women, and fashion from the archive of designer Simone Rocha. The characters they’ve captured are strong and feminine, steeped in religion and confidence.

Above image: Giorgia wears SS12 pattern lace and net frill dress
Below image: Maria Chiara wears SS13 gold halo, Marzia wears SS13 white halo

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Slow Friday Animal Videos

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On this slow, rainy Friday before the long weekend, the best we have to offer over here is some videos of animals and children. The first is a baby elephant swimming in the ocean for the first time. The second is a crippled lion and his friends, who are wiener dogs. The last one is  is a bossy little girl (not technically a wild animal but if you spend any time around kids, you’ll probably agree with me that it counts). Have a good long weekend and we’ll see you Tuesday.

Reinterpreting the Ring Cycle

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It took Samantha Casolari four days to shoot the four cycles of Richard Wagner’s “Der Ring des Nibelungen” (the Ring Cycle) at New York’s famed Metropolitan Opera. Using a Canon 5D Mark II, the Italian-born, New York-based photographer and filmmaker captured the full dress rehearsals with a discerning eye and surreal predisposition. Approximately seven days of editing later, she had transformed this raw footage into what she describes as a “waking dream,” a four-minute film for the Avant/Garde Diaries that succinctly portrays the epic (16-hour-long) nature of Wagner’s magnum opus at the same time it encourages limitless viewer interpretation, and stokes the desire to see the live opera. The below film debuts today with an opening party, but we were lucky enough to secure a preview and an in-depth look into its creation.

Erin Dixon: Why did you choose the opera the “Ring Cycle” as the subject of your film?

Samantha Casolari: I took a class in German philology when I was in college and I read a lot of the Nordic sagas (Poetic Edda, Beowulf, Nibelungenlied …) based on which Wagner loosely wrote his “Ring Cycle.” I was fascinated by those stories full of heroes, dragons, both strong and vulnerable women, and otherworldly mythical creatures. They are epic and dark tales, with an incredible depth, and I found myself extremely entranced by these stories and their characters. Being attracted to Wagner’s “Cycle” was a natural consequence of this interest and when last year I read about the new “Cycle” production at the Metropolitan Opera, I knew right away I wanted to document it closely, as it managed to portray those tales I had read in such a beautiful and truthful way.

Erin: What is your favorite part of the “Ring Cycle” and why?

Samantha: I can’t really select just one part…the “Cycle” is so convoluted and elaborate and fascinating… and long (about 16 hours for the full cycle), but I can certainly say that some of my favorite parts are: the Prelude of the Cycle, showing the beginning of the world, and the Rhinemaidens (it is one of the most stunning pieces of music I have ever heard); when the Gods leave on the rainbow bridge on their way to the newly created castle, Valhalla, at the end of the first opera, Das Rheingold; the breathtaking love duet between the siblings Sieglinde and Siegmund in the first act of Die Walküre; and definitely every time the Valkyrie are on stage. These are certainly some of the parts that left me the most breathless.

Erin: What do you admire about Wagner’s work?

Samantha: Wagner’s work has a abundance of layers that is rare to find in most of his contemporaries. The “Ring Cycle,” for instance, not only talks about an epic saga but it also explores an incredible variety of themes. It portrays the birth and the death of a world, the loss of innocence, the pursuit of knowledge at all costs, the never-ending struggle of love, the extreme compromises made to gain ultimate (and somehow useless as the world’s is doomed to end anyway) power. He also anticipated a large amount of ideas that were later introduced by Carl Jung. It is a “promothean” investigation of human nature on a scope almost never seen before. And what is even more fascinating in this research is that its grandiosity is mirrored on the stage and in the music. Wagner—who wrote the music and also the libretto of the opera, which took him about 26 years to complete—envisioned choreography and stagecraft that was unparalleled at the time, but also very hard, if not impossible, to be put into life properly because of lack of adequate theatrical techniques. He, therefore, designed a opera house just for that opera, which was built in Bayreuth. It still exists and nowadays the Bayreuth Festival Theatre takes place there, and it is uniquely devoted to Wagner’s operas. He even had new tubas designed in order to play special effects that no other existing instruments could play. It is absolutely fascinating to read about this man’s megalomaniac and genius way of making art.

Erin: What is one thing that surprised you when watching the performance?

Samantha: The Machine that Robert Lepage and his team at Ex-Machina have built onstage is astonishing to see live. It so well represents the monumental nature of that opera. All through the almost 17-hour-long performance (over different nights) it, at various turns, takes the shape of a forest, the depth of the sea, a castle, a rainbow, horses ridden by the Valkyries, of the end of the world.. It is an absolutely incredible piece of engineering.

Erin: What would you like your film to communicate to the viewer?

Samantha: One of the concepts that struck me the most while researching Wagner’s opera is his way of reaching into the subconscious to gather ideas, his heavy reliance on intuition. For instance, the beautiful prelude (which I have used as soundtrack to the video and which Valentin Stip has remixed), he claims came into his head through a waking dream. That is what I tried to show by editing the video in a somehow trippy, surreal and dreamy fashion. I would like people to feel that this is a story they are actually watching inside their heads, in their subconscious, where they are meeting archetypal characters that can help bring emotions, memoirs and premonitions back to the surface in a sort of awake/visual meditation or a vivid waking dream. I have always been surrounded by lots of rationality and structures, that is why I am obsessed with anything that is the opposite of [those constraints]. Der Ring des Nibelungen is the perfect example of the infinite richness of a man’s subconscious and intuition, and it was such a incredible project to work on.

The Cycle Revealed – Narrated by Bernard Gilbert from The Avant/Garde Diaries on Vimeo.