Postcards: modern art and classic theatre

Thursday, 6 February 2014

I'm a bit of a postcard collector. I always loved having a little reminder of the places I'd been, but my collecting really started during my year studying fine art, where a trip to Berlin with an instruction to collect all the ephemera I could find to base my artwork for that project off (the results of which are here - I'm considering working more on this project soon as it's one of my favourites and I'd like to give it a touch up). I came back with a huge collection of postcards, scraps, flyers and bits and pieces and since then I haven't really stopped. Since I've got a fairly large collection, I decided to photograph a few that I like together, as I don't have enough space to put them all up and I'm not really allowed to stick things to the walls in my current flat. This is my first lot - all brown, beige and red.

1 | I picked up this postcard in Berlin, though I'm not exactly sure where. The text on the back is in German but roughly translates to 'the actor Desire [Amable Courtecuisse] as Jupiter, who transformed himself into a fly in order to approach Euridice'. The image was taken by an unknown photographer for a production of the operetta 'Orpheus in the Underworld', performed in Paris in around 1865. The photograph is from the Lebeck Collection at the Museum Ludwig Koln.

2 | Jenny Holzer's 'Protect Me From What I Want', in the Altonaer Museum in Hamburg. Holzer is famous for her one-line slogans, especially her Truisms, which she created after being given a daunting reading list by a tutor during a study programme at the Whitney Museum in New York, reducing the reading to one-liners, posting them on the streets and returning to watch the public react to them.

3 | I picked up a lot of postcards of work at the City & Guilds Degree Show in 2013, one of which was this one by Anna McDowell, entitled 'All the Versions of "You" I've Known'. This piece was an installation in the show, with styrofoam forms wrapped entirely in thread and suspended from the ceiling.

4 | A photograph from Lothar Baumgarten's 'Kultur-Natur', 1971. Baumgarten's works are kept in collections all over the world, including the Tate in London.

5 | This photograph is one that doesn't always get a lot of love from visitors who see it on my wall! It's a photograph from 'Case History', a series of 413 shot by Boris Mikhailov in 1997-1998. It was featured in the exhibition entitled 'Gaiety is the Most Outstanding Feature of the Soviet Union' at the Saatchi Gallery focusing on Russian art. According to the gallery, 'Case History documents Mikhailov’s perception of social disintegration ensuing from the break-up of the Soviet Union – both in terms of social structures and the resulting human condition. Case History documents the social oppression, the devastating poverty, the harshness and helplessness of everyday life for the homeless'. He said: “I suddenly felt that many people were going to die at that place. And the bomzhes had to die in the first rank, like heroes – as if their lives protected the others’ lives.” It's a difficult kind of voyeurism to handle, and one which made me quite uncomfortable, bringing up questions repeated often about photojournalism and the way it treats the people it features. His idea that photographing people 'naked' 'with things in their hands', 'like people going in to gas chambers' was something that didn't quite sit right for me. However, I found the series moving and interesting, so I picked up a reminder of it.

6 | This is an old postcard in my collection, a reproduction of a drawing of a scene in Amsterdam by Pieter Adriaan C Schipperus. I can't remember where I got it from, but I'm pretty sure it was something to do with the lovely handwriting on the back. It doesn't have a postage stamp on it, so I'm not sure when it's from, but I'm pretty sure it's early 20th Century judging by the handwriting and the ink compared to other old postcards I've got.

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