Visited the Mumok While In Vienna

Screen Shot 2013-07-28 at 10.13.13 AM

 

During my visit to Vienna this week, I went to the MUMOK (MUseum MOderner Kunst) museum in the Museum Quarter of the city.

As Austria’s largest museum covering the period since the advent of modernism, the Mumok promotes the integration of Austrian ideas within an international context. And, it’s in a very cool structure.

The Mumok considers itself to be a public institution that is committed to meeting the needs of the media, artists, art criticism, cooperating partners and its own employees. As a public institution, it’s committed to engaging with social and political issues and their importance with the advancement of art and culture.

Since its founding, the Mumok has set out to preserve, expand and exhibit its collection of 20th and 21st century art. One of the most important objectives has been, and continues to be, to convey the historical and theoretical framework of art to the public.

With its emphasis on Pop Art and Photorealism from the Austrian Ludwig Foundation, and Fluxus and Nouveau Réalisme from the Hahn Collection, with Viennese Actionism, performance art, conceptual art and minimal art along with numerous other movements following in the wake of these traditions ranging from the 1980s to the present, the museum relates directly to the contemporary situation with a unique mixture of critical, analytical and realist artistic perspectives on society and the art institution with special emphasis on works since the 1960s.

One of the exhibitions on display that I found particularly intriguing was: Simon Denny -The Personal Effects of Kim Dotcom.

The exhibition revolves around the legal issues of Kim Dotcom’s (who’s real name is Kim Schmitz) file-sharing site Megaupload, once one of the most popular platforms for data exchange on the Internet. Following investigations by the FBI and a suit by a US court, Megaupload and Megavideo were closed down in January 2012, according to the indictment “to stop a globally operating criminal organization, whose members were perpetrating large-scale copyright infringements and laundering vast sums of money, with a total damage of more than $500 million.”

When the New Zealand police raided German-born Dotcom’s Coatsville mansion, arresting him and closing down his file-sharing website, they seized a number of objects in his possession. These included $175 million dollars in cash, 60 Dell servers, 22 luxury cars, and works of art.

For this exhibtion, Simon Denny assembled a series of objects from the list. Images, files and company data, from a life-sized Pedator statue to 3 cubic meters of cash, from a luxury “work-bed“ to examples of artwork collected by Dotcom. The result is a large-scale  installation that Denny describes as a “collection of copies, rip-offs and imitations of the ‘real’ contraband.”

Art Versus Pornography

Aureliano

When the topic of fine art nudes comes up, the subject of pornography often comes up as well. Different people have different views on things, and I have always respected the right of each person to have his or her own view. What I resist is when someone tries to impose their views on others, or tries to classify one thing as bad simply because they don’t appreciate or understand it.

I have always been at a loss as to why so many people blend nudity into pornography, de facto. Many people believe that any nude depiction is pornographic. What pornography “is” is largely a subjective matter. It all depends on the intent of the artist, the mind of the viewer, and how the picture is used. If it’s intended and used for sexual arousal and gratification only, it is often classified as pornography. If it expands your vision and insight, lets you see or feel things that you wouldn’t have seen or felt on your own, it’s Art in my opinion. On the other hand, someone once wrote: “If it’s in focus, it’s pornography; if it’s out of focus, it’s art.” Although a funny thought, it’s probably as good a distinction as any since it’s virtually impossible to accurately define pornography.

Actually, I think it’s a matter of having respect for the subject. All fine art images are sensually stimulating, whether they include a nude form or not; they represent an individual artist’s ideal. To say that something like Botticelli’s Venus is devoid of sensual or sexual content is ridiculous. What matters, however, is how the artist portrays the subject and how the viewer responds to that sensual message. Fine art or erotic nudes may have a sensual or sexual tone, but not in the casual or disposable way that pornographic images do. But there is something about a successful fine art nude image that humbles the viewer; the sheer beauty of the subject commands respect. Pornographic images do not have this effect. There is something about them that is inherently cheap and disposable.

Defining pornography is about control…it is just another censorship issue. Throughout history the works of many fine artists and writers have been “banned” or prohibited. We all know the names. Lawrence, Joyce, Mapelthorpe, Sturges, Hamilton, etc. As with art, pornography is also in the eye of the beholder, if you want to see an image as pornographic, then it is pornographic. I have found that, “pornography” is a word most often used by those who have an irrational fear of sexuality, and how to express it. A fear that also extends to excluding works from association with another misunderstood word: “art.” I believe that if it is something that offends you…don’t look at it (or don’t read it).

The distinction between images that exploit and ones that don’t, is a good one. But using such an ill-defined word as “pornography” to label the work, is not.

On the other hand, it could be argued that pornography is fine. It is, what it is. The term has been awarded a critical, negative meaning by some. But it is honest at least. There is nothing wrong with pornography because it is not pretentious. It’s very honesty is what justifies it, unlike most of those who criticize it.

Fine art on the other hand is always in danger of being pretentious, and there are a lot of awful nudes out there. Pornography should never pretend to be something it isn’t in order to justify itself. I abhor tacky nudes that claim to be fine art. Unfortunately a lot of attempts at fine art nudes are just tacky, and reveal the narrowness of the creator’s vision.

But I find the notion that nudity is synonymous with pornography to be very amusing. Especially since (by the common definition) the image of a naked person doesn’t need to be involved in order to create a pornographic image. Think about it. A person can be fully clothed and still be engaging in pornography. Pornography is an act, an intent, not a state of dress. It is a mindset, and weather the subject is nude or not, does not make it pornography nor does it eliminate it from being pornography.

What truly worries me is that many people who have not been exposed to different levels of art (which employ the nude as a subject in it’s storytelling) often have difficulty separating art from pornography, in their mind and in their spirit. And society, religion, the courts and politicians have helped to keep the lines blurred. What results is the naïve categorization that all nudity as immoral, indelicate and exploitative. After all, it’s far easier to lump everything into one box, than to attend to the intent of individual artistic expression.

If we were to do away with nude images in art, we will have to throw out many of our Monet’s, Renoir’s, Sisley’s, Degas’, Cezanne’s and Van Gogh’s just to mention a few.

Originality

Hell-on-Wheels

 

The drive of an artist is to express reality as he or she feels it. And because reality grows from history we feel a constant need for new art. The past has provided great works of art. And if they were all-encompassing we would never need new ones. But that is not the case.

Truly the drive of an artist is to express his or her reality. But it’s the expression that must be original, not so much the reality. Everything is derivative; it must be. So one artist’s reality may draw from others. But if the artist can bring across his or her own expression of it, it is original and valid. Let’s say a group of people start off with the same task, yet they each end up with different results. Are they not all original? We sit in a drawing class with 20 students, each drawing the same still life on a pedestal at the front of the room. Yet, each student’s drawing will be entirely different…original. Reality/expression. They’ve all drawn the same scene, but they’ve all seen it differently and expressed it differently. Anyone can always find similarities between two things. Originality is in the mind of the artist, not in what he/she creates.

Cezanne tried to paint like El Greco, but he couldn’t help making Cezannes. He didn’t fret over whether he was being original or not. The great men and the most original, borrowed from everyone. Shakespeare and Rembrandt borrowed from the techniques of tradition and created new images through their imagination. Reality/expression. Artists should absorb all they can and then express things in their own way. That, in fact, keeps their work original. There are as many ways of creating as there are ways of thinking… and thoughts to think.

Eugene Delacroix wrote in 1824: “What moves men of genius, or rather, what inspires their work, is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough.”

Welcome To My Blog!

Grasp

This is the first post to try out my new Blog. I will be adding posts to this on a regular basis and hope that you’ll join in, comment and share these thoughts and yours as well.

This Blog was launched for D. Keith Furon Fine Art Photography, and this is me –D. Keith– writing it. I am a fine-art photographer, with my studio based in the Palm Springs area of Southern California. I studied at U.C. Berkeley, Edison State College, and U.C.L.A. Much of my work has been sold through Sotheby’s Auction House. My work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, and The Kinsey Institute Art Gallery.

I started my journey into photography in 1983 (thirty years ago!) and have been exhibited extensively and the U.S. and Internationally. My work has been published in numerous books. In fact, my first solo book is due out this year. D. Keith Furon: The First Thirty Years, is a retrospective of my work to date.

Why am I Blogging?

Good question! I want to share thoughts about art and photography in general, as well as specific issues that spark an interest for me, and hopefully you as the reader. I often come across issues and events that I think others would like to know about and can benefit from. Whether it’s creative styles, or new technology. This blog is not about selling my work to you! It’s about sharing ideas and starting a conversation that may inspire and motivate. It’s about discussing current trends and developments. It’s about offering opinions and insights on all things fine-art photography.

What will I be Blogging about?

Simple really. Anything that involves art and photography, actually. For example, I’m working on my next post that will be about “Art vs. Pornography,” and the photographic treatment of the nude in art.  My topics may also cover new creative technology or processes that I have found to be very useful or inspirational, and hope you will too. Or, a discussion about art and its process photographically. Rest assured, this Blog will stay true to fine-art photography.

How can you leave feedback?

Well, just write a response. It’s that easy. I encourage your comments. How else will I know anyone out there is actually reading this? The blog has a simple response function that allows readers to write their thoughts. I want your feedback and encourage it. But, please be respectful and polite in all comments on this Blog! One of the main problems with the Internet is that some people feel they can rant and be rude, because they aren’t face-to-face with the reader. That’s not the case here. Be polite and considerate, but share your thoughts. And most of all, enjoy!