EWAN TELFORD

Los Angeles, USA

EWAN TELFORD (Los Angeles CA, USA)

Biography:

Ewan Telford hails from Edinburgh, Scotland. His background is in the film business, having worked variously as a director and editor. His photography has been featured in the New York Times Magazine, Suddeutsche Zeitung, Die Welt, Bloomberg Business Week and others.

Artist Statement:

Chengüchngech : Supreme Creator God

The world was at one time in a state of chaos, until God gave it its present formation, fixing it on the shoulders of Seven Giants, made expressly for this end. They have their names, and when they move themselves an earthquake is the consequence. Animals were then formed, and lastly men and women were made separately from earth, and ordered to live together. The man’s name was TOBOHAR, the woman’s PABAVIT. God ascended to Heaven immediately afterwards, where he receives the soul of all who die. They had no bad spirit connected with their creed; and never heard of a “Devil” or a “Hell” until the coming of the Spaniards.*

* There are several theories as to the origins of the Chengüchngech religion: (1) it was a relatively recent phenomenon resulting from contact with the Hispanic Catholic culture – Alfred Kroeber suggested that the spiritual being Chengüchngech was “a reaction formation … an imitation of the Christian God of the missionaries, whom they took over and furnished with a native name and added to their own beliefs.” (2) the rise of the religion is attributable to the direct influence of Europeans who were perhaps stranded or shipwrecked along the California coast in the 16th century – thus, Chengüchngech may have been a traveler with a background in one of the European and/or Asian religions; (3) the religion arose as an indigenous reaction to the social stresses brought about in Gabrielino society by European diseases introduced by the Spaniards in the 16th century.

Practice Statement: How does photographing on film (or using your material photographic process of predilection) inform your artistic practice?

I use film because it necessitates a more measured approach to my subject. I must take in and understand the subject at hand completely before I make the photograph. The photograph I ultimately make will consequently be quite different and, I believe, superior to any in the range of shots I would take in a digital context. In short, film enables me to “see” differently.

http://ewantelford.com/
@ewantelford

ACCOMPANYING TEXTS

The Architecture of Reassurance (1313 Disneyland Drive, Anaheim)

Schloss Neuschwanstein, the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Disneyland, is located in the Bavarian Alps south of Munich. The castle, the creation of “Mad” King Ludwig II, appealed to the Situationists because its baroque, fairy-tale forms defied the conventions of architectural reason; it was a work of pure imagination. The quintessential Situationist structure is the labyrinth and inside the Situationist city the “principle activity of the inhabitants will be the continuous dérive. The changing of landscapes from one hour to the next will result in complete disorientation.” The changing landscapes of the Magic Kingdom however are planned around a central, visual magnet to attract and orient people. According to Disney, “The Sleeping Beauty Castle hub gives people a sense of orientation. They know where they are at all times.”

The Royal Road

It has neither name nor place. I shall repeat the reason I was describing it to you: from the number of imaginable cities we must exclude those whose elements are assembled without a connecting thread, an inner rule, a perspective, a discourse. With cities, it is as with dreams: everything imaginable can be dreamed, but even the most unexpected dream is a rebus that conceals a desire or, its reverse, a fear. Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.

Air Unit with 30 Million Candlepower Nightsun

The officers in the helicopter respond to a call about a possible burglary in a South Central neighborhood. They are given a location and a description of a suspect. The pilot steers the helicopter to the area while the observer prepares to activate his FLIR (forward-looking infrared device), which registers heat-bearing substances in a glowing white. Before the FLIR is activated, however, a motion-sensitive light flashes on in an alleyway. His suspicions alerted, the observer trains his “nightsun” spotlight on a middle-aged man who is moving slowly through the alley with the assistance of a cane. The observer broadcasts the location of his newly discovered suspect to a patrol officer, who promises to respond. In the meantime, the observer continues to illuminate the man as he moves slowly out of the alley and down a street. The spotlight does not seem to affect the man in any way; he does not look up or alter his movements. The patrol car arrives, and the officers order the man to put his hands behind his head and kneel in the street so he can be handcuffed.

Black Magic (Hidden Cities)

“This whole city is run on witchcraft. Did you know 100 black women are missing from skid row? It’s black magic. There was this guy; he was white and he was with this lady. He passed me. I’d bought a bunch of food and I was eating ice cream. He looked and he tells his woman right in my presence, ‘they after her with black magic.’ He stopped and looked at me like he felt bad for me. He was talking about the people that’s in this city.

“This city is full of witchcraft. Here, San Diego, Arizona, El Paso Texas. Someone tried to make me a witch when I was 21 years old. I said no. Turned him down. The guy that came after me was already a warlock; he wanted me to be a witch. He said ‘you ain’t had a chance to use your your gift yet.’ He said ‘I want to train you to use your gift, you can make plenty money if you do this.’ Then he handed me a devil’s prayer to denounce god. I said no. He said ‘I don’t do this for just no anybody.’ I said I ain’t gonna use no gift for the devil. Mac Daddy caught a fit. He used to run up on me with sharp objects you use to cut wood. I had to get out from around him ‘cause he wanted to make me a witch.

Cities and Memory (1466 East 54th Street, Los Angeles)

On May 17, 1974, the Los Angeles Police Department’s newly formed SWAT division engaged six heavily armed Symbionese Liberation Army militants barricaded in a small house in South Central. Three months earlier, the SLA had made headlines with the kidnapping of the publishing heiress Patricia Hearst. Media obsession with the story was so intense that Newsweek put the photogenic Hearst on its cover seven times. The saga’s cocktail of celebrity, spectacle and violence would, in many ways, give rise to the media world we inhabit today, while the siege would usher in an age of militarised urban police forces.

The scene at West 54th Street became a landmark in the history of television. Until then, advance planning was required to broadcast live events. But new technology allowed local TV station KNXT to broadcast live from the field through a microwave transmitter attached to a van. Thanks to the minicam, the Hearst kidnapping led to the first unplanned breaking news event to be broadcast live and soon millions of viewers were watching not only what was, then, the biggest police shootout in U.S. history, but the first example of terrorism as media spectacle.

Years later, evidence emerged suggesting that the SLA’s leader, Donald DeFreeze, had been an agent provocateur working to discredit the radical left. It is doubtful that the facts of the saga will ever be parsed from the fiction, perhaps least of all the degree to which Hearst herself was complicit in it. The siege ended with the deaths of the six SLA members. But as 1466 East 54th Street went up in flames, the question for TV presenters and viewers alike was whether Hearst herself was in the building.

She was in fact at a Disneyland motel 20 miles away, watching the scene unfold on television. Hearst would remain on the run for another year.

A Simple Idea in Architecture

We know the principle on which it was based: at the periphery, an annular building; at the centre, a tower; this tower is pierced with wide windows that open onto the inner side of the ring; the peripheric building is divided into cells, each of which extends the whole width of the building; they have two windows, one on the inside, corresponding to the windows of the tower; the other, on the outside, allows the light to cross the cell from one end to the other. All that is needed, then, is to place a supervisor in a central tower and to shut up in each cell a madman, a patient, a condemned man, a worker or a schoolboy. By the effect of backlighting, one can observe from the tower, standing out precisely against the light, the small captive shadows in the cells of the periphery. They are like so many cages, so many small theatres, in which each actor is alone, perfectly individualized and constantly visible. The panoptic mechanism arranges spatial unities that make it possible to see constantly and to recognize immediately. In short, it reverses the principle of the dungeon; or rather of its three functions—to enclose, to deprive of light and to hide—it preserves only the first and eliminates the other two. Full lighting and the eye of a supervisor capture better than darkness, which ultimately protected. Visibility is a trap.

Necroeconomic Logics of Capital

Larry Phillips, Jr. and Emil Mătăsăreanu met at a Gold’s Gym in Venice, California, sharing an interest in bodybuilding, weightlifting and firearms. The duo soon embarked on a series of successful armoured car and bank robberies. On the 28th February, 1997, Phillips and Mătăsăreanu, sedated with phenobarbital and armed with automatic weapons and body armour, robbed a North Hollywood Bank of America with an execution inspired by the Michael Mann film Heat. The plan went to script, and the botched robbery resulted in a 45 minute firefight with close to 400 members of the LAPD. An estimated 1800 bullets were fired, twelve policemen and eight civilians were injured and the perpetrators killed.

Live television broadcasts presented the action from multiple viewpoints caught from helicopters and camera crews on the ground, while presenters referenced the scene’s resemblance to the film Heat.

Strategies of Exclusion

The Minotaur was destined for neither life nor death – not, at least, until Theseus arrived: he was simply to be removed, “ousted” as a danger to the King. The labyrinth gave “evil” a location; it was the site of malevolence. It was what Michel Foucault termed a heterotopia, a place beyond all others, the flip-side of society. It was a kind of testing ground: a trial run at making something disappear without actually destroying it.

Chengüchngech, Supreme Creator God

The Tongva believed in one God, the maker and creator of all things, whose name was (and is) held so sacred among them as hardly ever to be used, and when used only in a low voice. That name is Qua-o-ar. When they have to use the name of the supreme being on an ordinary occasion they substitute in its stead the word Y-yo-ha-rivg-nain or “The Giver of Life”. They have only one word to designate lifeand soul.

The world was at one time in a state of chaos, until God gave it its present formation, fixing it on the shoulders of Seven Giants, made expressly for this end. They have their names, and when they move themselves an earthquake is the consequence. Animals were then formed, and lastly men and women were made separately from earth, and ordered to live together. The man’s name was TOBOHAR, the woman’s PABAVIT. God ascended to Heaven immediately afterwards, where he receives the soul of all who die. They had no bad spirit connected with their creed; and never heard of a “Devil” or a “Hell” until the coming of the Spaniards.

The Ghosts of Charles Manson and IBM meet in Caesar’s Palace

‘We’ll find you a car, Wayne, so you can see more of LA. The old freeway system is still there, should last as long as the Pyramids.’ With remarkable frankness he told me that he sees Manson’s Vegas and Los Angeles operations as the base for a new Mexican kingdom that will occupy the whole of north America to the west of the Rockies. I tried to explain to him my own dreams of a renascent USA, but he clearly thinks I am crazily impractical, hung-up on brand names and a lot of infantile delusions about unlimited growth. In his eyes it was an excess of fantasy that killed the United States, the whole Mickey Mouse and Marilyn thing, the most brilliant technologies devoted to trivia like instant cameras and space spectaculars that should have stayed in the pages of science fiction. As he put it, some of the last Presidents of the USA seemed to have been recruited straight from Disneyland. Paco reads the Batman comics, but he regards himself as coldly realistic. Oddly enough, I don’t think he has as much faith in Manson as I have, sees him as an eccentric Lloyd Wright, Edison or Land.

The Cult of the Fetish Gods (436 N Rodeo Dr, Beverly Hills)

The Gabrielino, as most other southern California societies, are considered members of the Toloache cult, which gets its name from a hallucinogenic brew made from the datura plant, known in Nahuatl by the name toloatzin but more commonly known as Jimsonweed. Toloache was not only used in the male Gabrielino coming-of-age ceremony… but facilitated communication between shamans and the spirit world.

As Fernando Librado explains in Breath of the Sun, the dreams an individual experienced under the influence of toloache could be used to divine the source of his illness or locate an object that was causing him harm. In one of the cases discussed by Librado, a mother uses her son’s (José Winai) dream to locate an ‘ayip, a powerful mineral or rock that could be used to control someone’s behavior, perhaps preventing an estranged spouse from leaving. The old woman learns that Cholo Roberto, an acquaintance of her son, appeared in his dream “in the corner of the room, placing ‘ayip with an unnaturally long arm in the upper corner of the room.” She then directs her oldest son, Miguelito, to find Cholo Roberto and tell him to remove the ‘ayip if he doesn’t want to be arrested. Miguelito finds Cholo Roberto and gets him to take the ‘ayip out of the house and throw it in the river.

The Fiction of Knowledge

The desire to see the city preceded the means of satisfying it. Medieval or Renaissance painters represented the city as seen in a perspective that no eye had yet enjoyed. This fiction already made the medieval spectator into a celestial eye. It created gods. Have things changed since technical procedures have organized an ‘all-seeing power’? The totalizing eye imagined by the painters of earlier times lives on in our achievements. The same scopic drive haunts users of architectural productions by materializing today the utopia that yesterday was only painted.

The world which had held one bewitched and ‘possessed’ is spread out like text before one’s eyes, to be read as though by a solar eye or the gaze of God. The elation of a scopic, gnostic impulse: to be nothing but this pure viewpoint – this is the fiction of knowledge.

Brentwood Country Estates (Running Wild)

The exclusive 24-hour gate-guarded community of Brentwood Country Estates was completed in 1991 by the Hilton family (of hotels fame). It is located minutes from Brentwood’s fine shops and dining in the exclusive suburb of West Los Angeles. There are only 14 estate sites in this 250-acre enclave, which assures undisturbed privacy and security. Each site averages 3.85 acres with flat building pads ranging from 30,000 square feet to over two acres. This unique development combines a serene country setting with breathtaking views of the ocean, city and mountains.

This is an active community that features the semi-annual Brentwood Country Estate barbecue, Halloween Party, Spring Easter Egg Hunt, and other activities throughout the year. The community also offers three tennis courts, two paddle tennis courts, children’s playground, basketball courts, and even a small pitch/putt course. The BEC Clubhouse has a spacious “great room” with a professional catering kitchen for meetings and private parties, plus a fully equipped gymnasium, pool, and spa. What makes Brentwood Country Estates so wonderful are its landscaped public areas and roadways. Because of its seclusion and security, maintained by constant guard patrol and security cameras, many high network celebrities and business executives are drawn to the community such as actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and his supermodel spouse, Gisele Bündchen.

A Labyrinth with No Centre

The film has at least two plots. The first, pointlessly banal, attempts to milk applause from dimwits: a vain millionaire collects statues, gardens, palaces, swimming pools, diamonds, cars, libraries, men and women. Like an earlier collector (whose observations are usually ascribed to the Holy Ghost), he discovers that this cornucopia of miscellany is a vanity of vanities: all is vanity. At the point of death, he yearns for one single thing in the universe, the humble sled he played with as a child!

The second plot is far superior. It links the Koheleth to the memory of another nihilist, Franz Kafka. A kind of metaphysical detective story, its subject (both psychological and allegorical) is the investigation of a man’s inner self, through the works he has wrought, the words he has spoken, the many lives he has ruined… Forms of multiplicity and incongruity abound in the film: the first scenes record the treasures amassed by Kane; in one of the last, a poor woman, luxuriant and suffering, plays with an enormous jigsaw puzzle on the floor of a palace that is also a museum. At the end we realize that the fragments are not governed by any secret unity: the detested Charles Foster Kane is a simulacrum, a chaos of appearances… In a story by Chesterton — “The Head of Caesar,” I think — the hero observes that nothing is so frightening as a labyrinth with no centre. This film is precisely that labyrinth.