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05/31/2004: "an aerial photographer overexposed."

Finally saw the exhibits running at the ICP that I'd been meaning to see for about two months, on the very last day they were open. The titles of the exhibits alone push all the right Geeta-buttons: "Gustav Klutsis and Valentina Kulagina: Photography and Montage after Constructivism" (Russian communists!) "Expanding Vision: László Moholy-Nagy’s Experiments of the 1920s" (the Bauhaus!) and "The Art of Science Imaging the Future: The Intersection of Science, Technology and Photography" (science!) But the exhibit I didn't know about--of heartbreaking larger-than-life Iraq war photographs, exposing every lurid detail in vivid, multidimensional colors--stole the show. This is the point in my blog post where I cleverly relate this to the Susan Sontag essay in the NY Times Magazine last week, but I'm too exhausted.

The science exhibit totally sucked (MRI scans are really cool, but a bunch of lame animations of brains being activated in different locations is not cool--you can see better brain-art in a Hollywood movie! C'mon!), but the post-Constructivism one and the Moholy-Nagy one were worthwhile. Russian one creepy--lots of floating, disembodied heads of Lenin, lots of very Constructivist-style hypergeometric stuff. My favorite part was the series of photomontages emphasizing the role of sports in Russian life. People with severe, pained faces and frighteningly defined muscles doing calisthenics for the good of the country. . .

And Moholy-Nagy was a rockin' guy, but you knew that already. The exhibit was pretty small, but there was some key stuff on tap. I'm pretty familiar with a lot of the work he did under the Bauhaus umbrella, but I'd never seen the first film he did, called Berlin Still Life. Just a bunch of shakily-shot street scenes of Berlin, basically, but it had a very "My First Movie" feel to it, which I thought was cool. I love seeing how artists developed their styles, and how they experimented with mediums they weren't used to--you could really sense this excited "Dude, check out this film camera!!" vibe. Then, some of Moholy-Nagy's notes for a film, which read like someone arguing with himself on paper. Moholy-Nagy never really spelled out a script or storyboarded things out; instead, he made vague, impressionistic notes about how he wanted the film to feel. So he wrote a bunch of ideas out in random parts of a page and drew arrows between them. Then he wrote "TEMPO! TEMPO! TEMPO! TEMPO!" over and over, to remind himself that his film was about the rhythm of things.


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