Bertien van Manen: "Paris Alice in Wonderland"


"The strange, irreal effect of combining photos with objects for me is a picture of the irreallity of the world we live in. The alterations of political situations, the restlessness caused by the current threats and changes, war, migration, terrorism but also consumption, TV, Internet, the speed of life, all these things make people forget who they are. And they make them cherish their family-photos..."

Bertien van Manen: Photographs of Photographs in Europe


Bertien van Manen, "Rome Fausto Coppio"

from the series: Photographs of photographs in Europe

by Bertien van Manen 2007

"In 2002 I started photographing photographs in parts of private interiors in Europe.
An interior is a metaphore for the inner being, showing in an unemphatical way the history, feelings, ideas and hopes of the inhabitants. The interior is a cocoon or a shell, that people build to keep their dreams in."


Christina McPhee: "Tillamook Air Models 3 + 4"


Christina McPhee: "Tillamook Air Models 1 + 2"


Shot in medium format using Agfa SCALA transparency film pushed to 1600 ASA.
Closing time, Tillamook Air Museum, Tillamook, Oregon August 2007. Printed October 2008 in folio one/ Pharmakon Library, for the New York Art Book Fair/Printed Matter with Silverman Gallery.


Dave Iseri: "Everything is Over"


Everything is Over / a graphic story by Dave Iseri



Lady in Wight (2) - from Neal Robinson


Neal writes (on -empyre):

As Kevin so eloquently stated in his previous post I also didn't exactly head to Colorado to unpack my pharmakon, but was thrilled to be invited to explore a topic previously unknown to me and to take part in Christina’s vision of a Pharmakon project.

My fascination with the perception of time and space drove me to create the Lady in Wight variants. These immense and perplexing subjects have been orbiting human thought for centuries and have been at the core of my work for some time now.

Instead of delving deeply into these enormous subjects, I was thinking we could take a side road and look at my visual and photographic strategy for these pieces. So where did the Lady in Wight variants begin? Ostensibly I could say it began with the books I have been reading over the past year and a half. These have included such works as The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene, A Briefer History Time by Stephen Hawking and the David Bodanis books E=mc2 and the Electric Universe.

Trying to wrap my head around the subjects that these authors introduce has proven to be quite a Sisyphean task. However, as a starting point for me it has been an invaluable endeavor. As my organic process continues I begin to hunt and gather images. Currently I am using a dslr to capture slices of time, though the Wight variants were primarily made from digital video stills.

The next step in Wight’s road to reality began with bringing everything into a digital environment. Film footage was taken using Photoshop’s automated ability to grab frames at pre-specified intervals and thus bring into the work a randomness that is associated with quantum physics. Once captured, the frames were then connected and layered into a much larger image. Layering at that point became an essential part of the process. Using the programs layers tool I was able to code and collage meaning into the image as I introduced text and various other shapes.

Even though the Lady in Wight variants are finished and have been released out into the world to make there own way as independent objects they provided an excellent jumping off point into my current work. I am a huge proponent of looking at one's work in retrospect which then helps the author understand their own art and also aids in the conception of new pieces. If you would like to see where the variants have led me then please visit

Until next time,


Naeem Mohaiemen: Heard It On TV Must Be True (from "My Mobile Weighs a Ton")



Balancing opposed needs for obscuring (from state censors) and revealing (to audience), I kept cutting/slicing the text. In early drafts, there was chatter about modes of production. I spent time debating whether I should keep quotes around “a very trivial matter” on a wall label, thinking that would be enough of a signpost: to a statement made at a press conference about the riots. The problem with ellipsis is, in the time of brutal edges only a hammer is understood. With a few exceptions, many did really think it was a show about mobile phones. Bread crumbs were eaten & lost. But along the way, before rushing to the printers (alway late), Annu Bonbibi unpacked the various drafts.

Naeem: Ok, no more “all you need is love” in the invite. Decided to go with FnF in the end because wanted to bring it back to mobiles…:-)

Annu: there’s a military govt on, you take pictures of curfew, Chitrak gives you space, and you decide to be cute…:-)…

Naeem: Chitrak didn’t “give space” as some act of charity. Empty slot before Ramadan. I’m happy they gave me space, but I don’t need to follow some kindness script...
FnF reference isn’t “cute”, it’s friends helping each other and building communities. Friendship love, not the boinking kind.

Annu: yeah, friendship when the mobile connections were deactivated, yeah lots and lots of communities have been built in Dhaka since 1/11 as we’re all living in a spirit of genial camaraderie and people are getting involved in issues and not being paranoid about being watched - give me a break… ar FnF tar mane ashole ki?? Finger-nose-finger??

Naeem: Friends n Family! The mobile package. You know, cheaper rates to all your FnF.

Annu: Also, was thinking why not ‘And lots of wall’?? as last line. I didn’t mean Chitrak ‘gave’ you space in the sense you understood it. Who cares if you spent your own money or not? I was thinking more along the lines of - today - Bangladesh - a young man (punk ethics et al) - wants to show his mobile pictures of an age when things are not what they seem to be - what does he need? - wall, wall, wall - be it Chitrak or outside DU.. byas, ei tukui amar boktobbo.

To really be ephemeral and for your work to, so to speak, ’self-destruct’ it would have been great to take this exhibition to the streets. Outside Charukala? Don’t worry, the rain would make sure no visual trace is left of this visceral angst I feel needs outing. Otherwise its just more talk and talk and talk amongst ourselves, FnF indeed!

Ok, before we move to the next point, I need to get this out of my system. I don’t know if I explained why FnF was keeping me sleepless. So mobile gives you this ‘free’ talk-time to call your friends and family, right? And? During curfew, communication was brought to a standstill because the potatoes just switched off a button. All our lots and lots of FnFs all switched off at the same time. Silence.

Every time I’ve been trying to talk potato politics, you’ve been paranoid and asking me not to talk about this on the phone. So yeah, our phones are tapped, brains are being eaten raw – before they’ve had time to foment the slightest ideas of rebellion – our brightest and most courageous are being imprisoned and silenced. In other words, what does FnF bring me if I can’t talk politics/organize demos/discuss religion with my friends? Silence
Naeem: But I never saw the mobile as a symbol of freedom. It’s limited, it’s role is instrumental in state control, and then there’s the ongoing bastardization of cultural space through sponsorship. FnF and many other text in the show is just using mobile jargon as language. It’s not the mobile I care about, but “FnF” as a signifier of friendship. The word, not the technical mobile function. Not the buttons, the talk time, the 25 paisa night rates.

Annu: Ok, and…let’s talk about the statement. What exactly is the image war you’re talking about? Or is it the battle against ‘aesthetic fascism’ as you earlier called it? Aren’t sunsets just your pseudonym for ‘aesthetic perfection’? And in that case isn’t ‘aesthetic perfection’ a pseudonym for a greater stifling – not just of artistic creativity but in the end of life lived with a penchant for diffĂ©rance, a life with punk and spunk.. ’with a little bit of creative chaos’? that’s how I read it..

Naeem: When the newspapers accidentally printed the picture of the student’s flying kick, that was image war (quickly snuffed out the next day). Accidental vs deliberate image warfare. Momentary forays and then retreat. One step forward..

Annu: I liked the Sultan part in your last draft! The bit where it says: “Remember Sultan, he was turned away from his own show because the Shilpakala guard thought he was a fokirni (only after his death could they sell him at Sotheby’s). That’s punk before the Sex Pistols.”

Naeem: I think I will take it out though, runs the risk of some thickhead thinking I am comparing myself with Sultan. By the way, what’s Bengali for DIY? Is there one?

Annu: I would say, juto shelai theke chondi path (from shoe repair to reading Chandi puja text). So somebody who can do everything by herself, i.e. the shoe repair job of the lowest caste as well as performing puja -in Brahminical Hinduism a job only performed by Brahmin males. And the juto, it goes with the kick.

Back to what personally interests me- the howl and the gall or the ‘damage and panic’. As I see it, the fear, for the man on the street, of being insignificant and powerless, or silenced and snuffed out in a world of scandalous and outrageous on-your-face consumption or in a world where his vote, read voice, will not count, where his differánce will cost him his life.      

Naeem Mohaiemen: Bones of Four Seasons (from "My Mobile Weighs a Ton" )



"We are in an Asian century, and a local situation, that is producing beautiful imagery. But it's all a little too gorgeous and refined. Standing in this political moment, aesthetic perfection makes me queasy. We still need space for mistakes, sharp teeth and bacteria. Politics come from the context in which image war happens. Mobile phone photos-- blurry, low dpi, poorly framed, no rule of thirds, colors burnt beyond recognition. Giving you quick access to make temporary provocations, without planning, preparation or press card." -NM

Naeem Mohaiemen: Something in the Air (from "My Mobile Weighs a Ton" )


Election 2008: Don’t turn my mobile off
by Naeem Mohaiemen
Daily Star, December 26, 2008

IN Khagrachari this week for a pre-election visit, I saw the value of mobile networks even in the district that was last to get it and has the most sparse coverage. Because operators have not put towers everywhere, once you leave Khagrachari Sadar certain mobile operator networks go off. After eight hours in the interior, we would return to the Sadar and networks, and immediately find phones filling up with unread SMS.

Among Jumma (Pahari) election organisers, the mobile is an essential tool. They were getting SMS about irregularities in Bandarban, pre-election voter intimidation in Rangamati. Just as quickly, those SMS were getting forwarded to media, activist, and government networks. By the time the newspapers arrived the next day (usually at mid-day in Khagrachari), those events had been reported and in some cases resolved.

Given that experience, and many others like it through the years, I’m baffled by the claim that shutting off mobile networks will ensure election rigging doesn’t take place. The example given is that political thugs will use mobiles to plan intimidation. This argument removes agency from citizen voters themselves. If one example can be given of the goon squad using mobiles, a hundred counter-examples can be given of citizens recording, reporting and preventing abuse using that same device.

The mobile phone camera, with its grainy real-time visual aesthetic, has replaced video cameras as the on-the-fly recording mechanism. More than once, we have seen mobile phone video being sent by MMS to TV stations and used for breaking news. “By mobile phone” is the ubiquitous on-screen scroll for election reporting on our major TV networks, whenever it is in a remote area where the camera crew has not arrived...

Naeem Mohaiemen: Sign Said Stop (from "My Mobile Weighs a Ton" )


Something is making me queasy. We are inside an Asian century, and a local situation, that is producing endless beautiful imagery. But it’s all a little too gorgeous and refined. I get worried facing so much aesthetic perfection. Still need space for mistakes, rudeness, bacteria, and things that just don’t fit.

My work is interested in damage and panic. Politics come from the context in which image war happens. Mobile phone photos– blurry, low dpi, poorly framed, no rule of thirds, no color depth. Giving you quick access to make temporary provocations, without planning, intention or press card. As accidental as the boy snapping his lover on Dhanmondi Lake. Koi, amar kotha shune hasho na to…

We crave more spaces for DIY. Yes, anyone can do this, and everyone should. No barriers, no high culture priests, no hierarchy, no gurus. Eventually of course, every rebellion becomes it’s own clique. That’s when we need to move on to the next space. Friction and creative chaos. Accidental images get in the way of blueprints.

Some people want us to shut up and become a nation of shoppers. But we’re not quite ready for our Singapore moment.

-Naeem Mohaiemen

Naeem Mohaimen: My Mobile Weighs a Ton


100 spoons but I need a knife

Naeem Mohaiemen

Ever have a morning so shitty you can’t get out of bed. Or when you won’t go to work unless Congress passes that $700B bailout. I’ll look back at 2007-2008 as a time when Bangladesh nursed that kind of hangover. A state of continual limbo, as we wait and wait. For elections to happen, for the Army to return to barracks, for the foul-mouthed politicians to return to the podium. For a limbo state to end.
Security panic is viral: crossing borders, morphing strains, bringing along multiple, overlapping agendas. Ominously, it replicates rapid-fire from North America to Europe to South Asia. Bomb in front of Indian Parliament, round up Pakistani insurgents. Then bombs go off on a commuter train and the lense shifts to illegal Bangladeshi migrants- there are so many more of them inside India. Then a day of synchronized bomb blasts inside Bangladesh as well. The terror analysts go into frenzy, Hiranmay Karlekar’s “Bangladesh: The New Afghanistan?” is one among many off the hook concoctions. Fear feeds hysteria.

A friend predicted early that panic over the Dhaka bombs would play into the hands of a security state. Aren’t you worried I asked, and she replied, I’m more worried about who benefits from panic. Sure enough, by the end of 2006 the message was seeping out from Dhaka’s meddlesome Embassy Row: the politicians have failed, the country was being over-run by terrorism. A desperate nation turns to the institution seen as strong on security: the Army. A “Caretaker Government” (CTG) takes over on 1/11 (‘07), a world driven by numerology.

By the end of Year two of CTG, good intentions had been defeated by brute realities (neither the Army nor the Politicians get what they want). Exhausted by a seemingly endless national melodrama, I could feel my dissident energy seeping away. Using pen names is strangely disempowering. The only space in which I was able to be more vocal were projects that were published outside these borders: in distant art journals or gallery walls. In contributions for Raimundas Malasauskas’ William Blake Saved Documenta and Carlos Motta’s Buena Vida/Democracy project. Where people would absorb the aesthetics but the politics be too remote to have street impact. I wrote with grim pragmatism that I knew there would be no “Last man in front of Tiananmen tanks.”

As catharsis for failure of nerve, I’ve been getting into arguments with old friends. This sometimes degenerates into shouting matches. Later we apologize over sms, email, gchat. On campus, it seems that everyone is strung on some narcotic. But maybe it’s just nerves. As our brains cook to a crisp from un-ending political limbo, mass psychosis is tearing at friendships/communities/alliances.

August 2008 was the first anniversary of the anti-army riots that exploded on university campuses– a tectonic disturbance that was the first challenge to this neat security blueprint. Invited to show at Gallery Chitrak around this time, I finally thought I could dare a shadow commemoration of that August. The first priority was making sure the gallery stayed open for the full ten days. They wanted no fuss, no bother with the government.

It was true, I did have a set of mobile phone photos. Accidental ephemera from the moment. On day 3 of the riots, when the army lifted curfew for two hours, I went on a motorcycle ride with my friend, snapping shots of the wreckage from my mobile. “Don’t bring out your camera,” my nervous friend warned, so I didn’t. The mobile shots, disposable and forgotten (I had almost erased without downloading), now became the tentpole for this project. Blown up to wall size, dyed in RGB palettes, they took on the timeline for the unravelling.