About Me

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MICHAEL SCHREIER Michael Schreier is a professional artist and photographer who has dedicated his considerable professional career to the celebration of both the public and private hero. Recent work includes Storyteller, Waiting for Words at the Ottawa Art Gallery, curator Emily Falvey, 2009, and the curating of the exhibition Dave Heath, A Heritage of Meaning, 2013 at the Ottawa Art Gallery. Selected works are represented in both public and private collections, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, the National Archives Photography Collection, the Agnes-Etherington Art Centre, the Canadian Portrait Gallery, Visual Studies Workshop, (Rochester, New York), Light Works Workshop, Syracuse New York, Carleton University Art Gallery, and the University of Ottawa Library Special Collections.

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Post #20

(cursor on any image for detailed viewing,
all illustrations by Michael Schreier unless otherwise acknowledged.)

In Concert for the Silent Witness: ...an authorization to voice...

( note, to view Heath video, cursor on highlighted title.)

In the beginning of...Dave Heath, in concert for the silent witness,post#19... we are introduced to a family snapshot used by Dave Heath in the original poster for his seminal work, 
                                                             Le Grand album Ordinaire, 

                                              accompanied by Montaigne's famous quote
                                                 "We are all of the common herd,
                               ( et nous sommes tous du vulgaire)" .

While having encouraged our reflection into humanity's gesture he also proffered a singular understanding and appreciation for continuity.

Where however, does one initiate such a journey?

(See post #12, reference to Temes and boy in the doorway)

On May 3, 2016, 12:23 pm Dave Heath wrote:

i'm not sure my readings are astute.it is of interest that some find the work

"obfuscating". i do not find that so. for me, it is the density of your thinking which i often find difficult to enter.
you are more of a "philosopher",word oriented. thinking that is dense like celan, like the 20th century atonal music that you like. i have sometimes wondered if the structure of your thinking is based on the density of your first language, German. i have often wondered that the books from my library that you read from are books of ideas/words, of some poetry(celan, jabès) but not others, nothing from the visual books. i have long said that photographers enter the medium through one of two doors:text (for instance nathan, (lyons)) or visual aesthetic, (Weston, Edward)
to wit, from your blog:
i am more inclined to see clifford still in "temes"
walker's photo structurally is of clarity and precision, like the grid layouts of philly and manhattan...like his subway series "many are called" wherein the quotidian populace live "lives of quiet desperation. i took his photo as the basis of "beyond the gates of eden"
though I may often find it difficult to enter your thought, I have always thought you brilliant, continue the work as you live it

regards, dave

studio,Walker Evans,>temes

see:  Susan Blackmore Temes, Susan Blackmore

                                                            Clifford Still, 1944-N No 2

My answer:
May 3, 2016, 12:52 pm

Thank you for your kind thoughts and insight...I do read a great deal from the visual section of your library...it certainly sources/influences my work...but I suspect at this point in my life/thinking I am deeply involved with two specific notions, that of doubt and the other, an authority for voice. When I see the profundity of your insight, in your work, and others, I question whether I have anything of real substance to offer...Temes to me underscores a confusion that I have sometimes speculated is part of the "Story of Babel" for in that myth rests not only the notion of language but the privilege  to utterance and the struggle for source...What has always struck me about the Evans photograph and his work is the depth to which he goes in recognizing the integrity of the vernacular and the anonymous. I see the window display as a tower built on the subtlety of trace and individual gesture. I also certainly absorb Nathan's text and Weston's visual aesthetics but for me there is a much deeper reflection and that is the right to existence and continuity, that in my own being I find I am challenging. Similar to my experience when one has a deep sense of loss, the very nature of validity is challenged. I have no memory other than through the story's that my parents told me, of my early years in Vienna...and when I came to Canada I could not speak as I did not yet have the language,

                                                                     "schwimmen ohne worte"
                                                                    ( swimming without words )

...that little boy in the doorway...

is of me the first day that I could actually, in English tell and share with my father,  my day's events...previously and until that day, he would not listen if I spoke in German...the link to atonal music, to the theater of the absurd, my appreciation of DAda and my understanding of Duchamp's contribution and numerous other elements stem from these early ruminations. Out of coincidence, the first and only play that I directed...The Bald Soprano by Ionesco, was his first play that he wrote to learn English...the humor and contradictions are the result of that dilemma...I am also a deep fan of Clifford Still...currently listening to Arnold Schoenberg...I find your work "Beyond the Gates of Eden" a very quiet reference to the "Tower of Babel" and the, as you suggest, quiet desperation of lives attempting to garner voice...your insights have always fueled the very nature of what I do and on many levels you are one of the few who really understands....

with tender thoughts, always, Michael

In Genesis 11:1-9 the origin myth associated with the Tower of Babel illustrates that man's hubris to build a tower sufficiently tall to reach "glory" would have serious consequences. Any displacement of voice could result in a significant loss of appreciation for both place and continuity.

Could this be true for the self-imposed exile?

1. The Absent Museum

The dutch word "afwezig" translates as an absence and may be associated with my previous reference "umsiedlung," translated as a rupture in post #18. I would like to suggest that an absence, in which language is severed from its origin, although audible, would offer little refuge for the outsider. 

The Tower of Babel represented on an ancient Iraqi tablet with its companion, the origin myth suggest that each generation has embraced an understanding beyond it's pragmatics of circumstance. Approaching a higher perhaps even sacred calling, the creation of language and its ensuing celebration allowed for speculation and doubt, [while reliant upon the absorption of the immediate experience] a metaphor could encourage the discipline for storytelling; then enfranchised, language could rest concurrently with experience and knowledge.

In considering the photograph of the young boy in the doorway, can one substitute " in the beginning was the word " with " in the beginning was the sound ": a vibration, approaching an utterance, from the intuitive then embracing a suggested structure and finally, the sentence? Certainly this process would require time although the initial stages might affirm some sense of the original experience. 

Any play on language and metaphor might encourage an hierarchy of experience,between the sacred and profane: from a sensitive awareness towards a conscious although speculative thought towards the richness of wonder and the existential song. An original experience offers the presence of sound, temperature, texture, light, darkness, all governed by a sentience for the immediate, yet by its nature, fluid. One selects elements within this more complex reality, to be rationalized, translated and then objectified. So, while a sculpture invites physical passage, the moving image, film, music, live theater, dance etc all determine a beginning, middle and end, all of which governed through cadence and time, offer a point of entry and exit. The photograph and the painting however congeals all of this and while seemingly democratic, remains still. It is the beholder of the work, determining by his or her reading of specific nuance, that eventually guides oneself towards interpretation and understanding: as Wittgenstein has suggested, the Muse of Possibility or the Impossibility to Muse. 

                                                               ...from Babel to Museum...

Why should any of these ruminations be of consequence? They are present in any curricula dedicated to the celebration of voice. One is simply referring to an association  between perception, utterance and then understanding. I find however, that in the current climate of expediency, the immediate and problem solving there seems little room relegated towards genuine speculation, without which I suggest one would have little awareness of any cultural implications. and virtue. This, coupled with an overwhelming presence challenging truth in favor of fake news creates a profound climate for doubt. None of this is new as we have heard the discussion for the simulacra, a post-modern declaration that truth no longer exists; so if that is true, than how can one believe?!

    As I have previously suggested:

...for the poet, an "umsiedlung" is the necessary rupture in order 
to provide passage and to give value to both 
the exterior and interior identity; 

for the immigrant, refugee, and the exiled however, 
it is also the struggle for continuity 
a rightful urgency to belong.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Post # 19

Dave Heath, A Concert for the Silent Witness

This post is a video post/work, just completed, celebrating the work and thoughts of Dave heath, Please enjoy,

Dave Heath, A Concert for the Silent Witness


Friday, 3 August 2018

Cursor on image for detailed viewing

Also please note any ghosted text will connect you to web link 

offering further information, eg. Nathan Lyons, and Allen Ginsberg

Post #18


[ˈʊmziːdlʊŋ  ]

noun, feminine: resettlement , relocation

(with social, geopolitical implications, a rupture, 

can also offer poetic, philosophical consideration.) 

Part 1:

 Photographic vision incorporates the notion of resettlement. With selective framing, the photographer simultaneously chooses to offer and to eliminate elements from their surroundings. The ensuing "umseidlung" might represent a less severe and furthermore, an existential appreciation, not associated with a political, genocidal or social upheaval.

Passport Photos
from a series,2018,
Maggie Wesley

 Dave Heath may have been intuitively aware of the complexity that this moment could present: as the young lad quietly acknowledges, the other two pass in silent reverie; a third settles into anonymity. Consequently and beyond that sense of a captured intimate grace, the beholder could be challenged to consider his or her vicarious participation. We might be reminded of another classic tradition within the photograph's lexicon, the equivalent. For, as Heath has included this image in an extended portfolio/work, " a  Breath of Kisses "  he continued to mine that fertile arena within the contemporary zeitgeist, embracing silence, anonymity, the value of exchange: Heath, proposing an urgency for acknowledgement, 
[even that of the beholder].

In concert, Hugh Edwards, Curator of Photography, Art Institute of Chicago has eloquently underscored, Heath's... "A Dialogue With Solitude"...

"When we have finished with this "Dialogue With Solitude" we know another of those rare works of the last few years which contemplate humanity's weaknesses, helplessnesses, hostilities and irresistible attractions, to draw from them a new understanding which may be more lasting than our illusions." 

" Disenchantment, strife and anxiety enshroud our times in stygian darkness. Pressed from all sides by the rapid pace of technological progress and increased authoritarian control, many people are caught up in an anguish of alienation. Adrift and without sense of purpose, they are compelled in a dialogue with the inmost depths of their being in a search for renewal; the burden of anarchy rests heavily upon them."  

"A Dialogue with Solitude"  Dave Heath 

The street dance, a contemporary masque, [by virtue of its urban umbilical,] provides a connecting moment imbued with social import; however at the same time, its disengagement. In order to appreciate the spirit of the work, the beholder is left with the task to reassemble. In the tradition of the social landscape, 
Lee Friedlander, Lisette Model, Tom Gibson, Gary Winogrand offer their unique perspective. 


Balthus: circa 1933

Image result for balthus

Robert Frank is situated somewhere in the middle, that while reflecting a country in dire emotional crisis, he commands an introspective gaze which for the most part can be attributed to the poet philosopher. "The Americans" embraces a wanderer's spirit associated with  the writings of Kerouac and " The Beat Generation and the Angry Young Men." It is neither coincidence nor serendipity that both Frank and Heath make reference to Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, among others, each engrossed in the nomad's search for place, and a rootlessness governed by an emotional need to reject the poets contradiction".

Tears for an Empty Desert
Michael Schreier
Drawing by Hilde Schreier

(Here, for your interest is the live reading "Howl" by Allen Ginsberg:)

Dave Heath, embracing an empathy for privacy and the grace of the privileged moment, nurtured his bias as both poet and witness; directing his attention to intimacy, the beholder and the beholder beheld. As the street guarantees both a point of entry and of exit, it  is also a place to be seen and by virtue of a mutually understood silent agreement, to watch, both in transition and engagement; always affirming the outsider's will to participate. 

Vienna, City of Thoughts, Michael Schreier, 2009
Drawing by Hilde Schreier

Dave Heath, Philadelphia, 2015
 Michael Schreier

Part 2:

Gaile McGregor outlines in her critical work, 

"The Wacousta Syndrome, An Exploration in the Canadian Langscape." 

(The coinage " langscape " far from adventitious, is meant to underline the extent to which nature, like other aspects of reality is not simply perceived, but socially constructed.) Gaile McGregor

"This brings us back to allegory again providing the best conventional structure within which to comprehend a double reality. Philosophy aside, in the end the Canadian manages to unify his divided response by utilizing forms in which the signifier ( both unsystematic and opaque)  and the signified (an ideal of order possibly but not necessarily corresponding to anything real) may be simultaneously disassociated and conjoined."

Michael Schreier

(my reference to Macdonald's Tangled Garden)
Trans Canada 2018
Image result for the tangled garden
J.E.H. Macdonald,
1873 - 1932

The Tangled Garden, 1916
oil on beaverboard
121.4 x 152.4cm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Gift of W.M. Southam, F.N. Southam and H.S. Southam in 1937 
in memory of their brother Richard Southam

Gaile McGregor's use of the Canadian novel  "The Wacousta "  ( Wacousta)  provides a complementary reflection to American, James Fenimore Cooper's  "The Leatherstocking Tales". As the frontier is [successfully?] settled and its indigenous tribes brought to knee, circumstances may demand a fortress mentality, further stylized, through metaphor and imagery. She underscores the value placed on memory, that of another place and its influence on the present; attributing this a leitmotif for Canadian Voice.

"... to be simultaneously disassociated and conjoined..."  Gaile McGregor

For the artist, the above echoes the value of the muse as one is transported, while for the migrant and the refugee, it rests as a reminder of loss and a vulnerability towards any potential settlement. How can one contribute an archive, history to a frontier and including a foreign place?

 For the poet, an "umseidlung" is the necessary rupture to provide passage and to give value to both the exterior and interior identity; for the immigrant, refugee it is also the struggle for continuity; a rightful urgency to belong.


Sunday, 1 October 2017

Post #17, The Gaze of Orpheus: veil removed.

(Cursor on images for detail,)

The Gaze of Orpheus

(All drawings by Hilde Schreier)

From Dread to Language, an essay found in the remarkable book, The Gaze of Orpheus by Maurice Blanchot, strikes at the very foundation of creative voice.

" It is comical for a man to recognize his solitude by addressing a reader and by using methods that prevent the individual from being alone"
Maurice Blanchot

Allow me to suggest, is it not truly ironic to assume a beholder present in the observation of a work, consumed by the notion of solitude? Considering it is here, as recounted in the classic Greek myth, Orpheus and Eurydice, Orpheus's plea to the King of Hades that Eurydice be allowed to return to the upper world, that we witness the ultimate hubris: in glancing back hoping to guarantee for himself, her presence in returning, Orpheus actually jeopardizes and destroys that possibility; the King of Hades having insisted that he, Orpheus, not look back at her as she begins to surface? 

                                       (Morton Feldman composition for Philip Guston)

Disappearance of memory, the resonance of time, and I was invited for a bowl of soup and conversation. We reminisced  the early years our families had connected, the bridge games shared and then the inevitable conversation back to homeland and one's private "heimat". Heimat, the German word for one's homeland, more than just a territory, but a place governed by the nurturing of sanctuary coupled with a profound understanding, awareness and longing for continuity.

Touching on a son lost in contemporary bewilderment, Bill proffered this gift of thought, an image allowing me to see a moment of recall for which I had only superficial access. It was enough, for at that moment there was a link between time, present and time speculated: she looked out from another past conviction, kept for him on a mantle and accessed only, by memory and that certain desire to the impossible return.

                                                                The Secret Life of Objects
                                                                              Robert Cummings,

Several years ago I had the opportunity to view Cy Twombly's  epic work Treatise on the Veil, a work dedicated to composer Pierre Henry. I had used Pierre Henry's master composition, Le Voile d'Orphee as an introduction to my course, Images in Motion, an exploration in sound production. Both Twomblys' and Henrys' works speak to the frailty and urgency for continuity, lost in a memory's passage. The coherency of a sound trace is threatened by the texture of concrete utterance and noise becomes its loss. Pierre Henry, and Dziga Vertov both embraced the values and experience accorded a flaneur, a wanderer absorbed by a quotidian's silent grace: similar in spirit perhaps with the travails offered a photographer. 

The next two images are dated according to time line, the same day and an hour+ apart. Intuitively, did the first experience have some influence on my sensitivity concerning the subsequent image? 

Simply the residue of "nothing" or perhaps the nothingness of object-hood. Maurice Blanchot resting at the nuanced entry to the post-modern period, encouraged the insight of so many following, including Gilles Deleuze, Michel Foucault and Jacque Derrida. I return often to these writers as they challenge the veracity of truth, the event, evidence and if all should be in doubt, the fundamental belief in continuity. They have given a profound declaration to the value for the muse, its presence, clarity and above all its frailty for doubt.

Gilles Deleuze
              " Not only does the past coexist with the present that has been, but...it is the whole integral past; it is all our past, which coexists with each present. The famous metaphore of the cone represents this complete state of coexistence"

(This extracted from Memory, History Forgetting, Paul Ricoeur, The Historical Condition, Forgetting.)

While "storytelling" may play well into this scenario: it is assumed that a spectator, an audience, and or witness may have experienced similar circumstance, guaranteeing perhaps some semblance of mutual place. However, all that this may lead to is a cautious sense of ownership, autonomy and a false belief in the value of colonialism. As control, order and finally rectitude might play a critical role in an artist's vision, the truth however for the beholder may actually provide a false pretence, as the poet rests in a place of "nothingness". As previously mentioned, Gaston Bachelard's "Poetics of Space" occupies a critical place in this drama, "the silence of the room revisited".

Finally, and as an alternative to Cartier Bresson's Decisive Moment may I suggest, the "Privileged Moment". Historically, Bresson's missive relied primarily on the rationalization of an event or circumstance, that the artist/photographer must be sensitive to all that occurs within the frame, as a graphic concert leading perhaps to some more profound truth. The time component in the photograph becomes fractionalized. I would like to suggest that a moment of clarity is reached not through recognition, but by a much more subtle element, empathy. This post began with an appreciation, reflection on solitude providing insight and continuity. Now the critical element empathy is only to be reached through conversation, whether silent or otherwise embraced.