We all consume. Food, drink, television, movies, air, strange cults…no one is immune. Actually, if we didn’t consume, we’d be dead. And, given we’re not, I guess that means, we consume.
Over-consumption can be a problem. It can lead to a broken planet with no way of fixing itself apart from changing. Something like getting rid of the lump in your bed by turning the mattress over. All very well for the mattress and you but pity the poor lump who used to sleep beside you.
Apparently, in Surrey anyway, the average person throws away one in every five shopping bags full of food. That’s not even consumption. It is, however, a problem that has arrived from consumption.
Which, brings me nicely to the Prix Pictet. However, let’s start with Pictet first.
Founded in 1805, they are one of the leading independent wealth and assets managers in Europe. I guess that means they have a lot of money and save wealthy people a lot of money as well, making them wealthier. And so, out of the goodness of their hearts and the bottom of their wallets, they give a prize every year for photography. This is the Prix Pictet.
There’s a lot of people who look at the entries in the Turner Prize every year and becry the death of the painting. They look at modern ‘art’ and grimace at yet more shredded tents, full size Sphinx carved out of sugar, millions of grains of porcelain rice, or yet another black square raised above a city skyscraper supposedly representing the evil shadow of religion.
They want the simplicity and idyllic world of Constable and his hay wain. You don’t have to think when you stand in front of the perfectly English countryside. Well, for those people I’d like to say, the Prix Pictet is seriously not for you.
Some of the photographs look hardly like photographs at all. Most, if not all, are not ‘pretty pictures snapped while on holidays in the South of France.’ Actually, none of them are like that.
These photographs feature stark consumerism in the massive and crowded images of Hong Hao. He scans everything he consumes and files the images away until it’s time to combine them in his giant displays. He did it for 12 years because, in the Chinese tradition, 12 years is the period of transmigration between cycles of fate and destiny. Clearly, that’s rubbish but his photos are pretty amazing.
There’s also the strangely compelling images of the detritus of weekend garage sales (or boot sale in the UK, and yard sale in the US) snapped in stark solitude by Adam Bartos. His images look somehow sad and desperate, be they of a set of rusty clamps or a child’s toy in front of an old mattress. These simple objects are normal ordinary household things which, in some strange effort to recycle, people are willing to part with for money as if the original owner is merely getting back some of the original investment.
Perhaps it’s me but I find the house where Motoyuki Daifu and his family lives to be somewhat disgusting. He describes it thus:
There are trash bags all over the place. Half-eaten dinners, cat poop, mountains of clothes: this is my lovable daily life, and a lovable Japan.
His strong visuals are amazing, it’s true. The resolution is sharp and the garbage looks almost real. The unwashed everything, littering every available (and sometimes not available) space, seems to be waiting for the world to eventually swallow it up because nothing is going to happen in this house.
Then there’s Laurie Simmons and her life sized sex doll. She bought a sex doll from Japan and took photos to document her relationship with the doll. From the first photo of the doll as she arrived in the packing case to others showing her bedecked in 20 pounds of jewellery. Laurie believes she managed to find a personality in the sex doll and allowed it to emerge.
Okay, that DOES sound a bit crazy. However, it proves that a viewer isn’t going to like (or understand) everything in a single exhibition. I didn’t like the series taken over ten years by Ukrainian photographer Boris Mikhailov.
I didn’t mind the actual winner of the Prix Pictet (Michael Schmidt), they didn’t really make me feel anything. But that’s because the images don’t seem to be really saying anything at all. Perhaps that’s the point. I don’t know. I found them dull and uninteresting. Clearly that’s why I’m not a judge on the panel.
This is the fifth Prix Pictet and it is hoped that it will draw global attention to the issues of sustainability. I think, if they really want to do that, then the Japanese garbage house would have been a much worthier winner. Spreading the word means getting it out to as many people as possible. Looking at the images of the winner, one is lulled into a peaceful world of black and white farms and industrious labour. While in Japan, the family is being subsumed into it’s own rubbish.
I wandered around the exhibition of the short listed photographers’ works at lunchtime today. I’d have to say I enjoyed most of them. They showed how differently people express themselves. A lunchtime well spent.
By the way…there’s no photographing of the photographs allowed so the images I’ve used in this post have been taken from the Prix Pictet website. I assume they don’t mind.