Datum, 2013
01.11.–15.12.2013
7. I, It, We, and They See You

In Blue Nights, a 2011 book in which Joan Didion struggles to come to terms with her daughter’s death, she relates how, when she was briefly hospitalized herself, doctors urged her to undergo a medical procedure:

I recall resisting: since I had never in my life been able to swallow an aspirin it seemed unlikely that I could swallow a camera.

“Of course you can, it’s only a little camera.”

A pause. The attempt at briskness declined into wheedling: “It’s really a very little camera.”

In the end I did swallow the very little camera, and the very little camera transmitted the desired images, which did not demonstrate what was causing the bleed but did demonstrate that with sufficient sedation anyone could swallow a very little camera.

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Veröffentlicht: 13.12.2013
1 Kommentare
6. Photography, She Said, Makes Me Nervous

Michael Wesely, Jochen Holy (12.06 - 12.11 Uhr, 6.3.2013) © Michael Wesely

Decades ago, when I wanted to be a painter and also needed a job, I thought it might be good to get some hands-on art world experience. I went to a number of galleries to inquire if there might be any positions and—in the era before MFA, museum studies, and arts administration programs made that crazily competitive—was hired by Harold Jones, the founding director of LIGHT Gallery, which had recently opened on Madison Avenue. Harold, who had spotted me looking at shows there previously, took a chance, hired me, and in ways I still marvel at, changed the course of my life. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 03.12.2013
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5. How, Where, and When Will We Really Talk About Photography?

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In an earlier post where I marveled over the almost unimaginable number of photographic images made daily, some commenters here and on Twitter (where I’m happy to see these posts bouncing around, too) remarked that it was time to get over being amazed, alarmed, or fetishizing what is, in fact, an undeniable pile up of pictures. The gist of some of those responses was that the bulk of those images are made privately, don’t circulate widely, and aren’t particularly good or meaningful in the first place. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 22.11.2013
10 Kommentare
4. Here's Looking at Me

In a defining moment of Nan Goldin’s 1980s slideshow, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, the lyrics to the Velvet Underground’s classic 1967 song—I’ll be your mirror/Reflect what you are, in case you don't know…'Cause I see you—are heard as slides of women looking at their reflections in mirrors are projected, one after another, every four seconds. Mirrors, a much-used device in Goldin’s magnum opus, serve as constant reminders of our attempts to see ourselves clearly in reflective surfaces, through the eyes of others and, of course, through photography.

Nan Goldin, Self-Portrait with Milagro, The Lodge, Belmont, MA 1988, 1988. Silver dye bleach print, 69.5 × 101.6 cm. © Nan Goldin/Courtesy of Matthew Marks Gallery, New York

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Veröffentlicht: 13.11.2013
13 Kommentare
3. Posing as What?

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Veröffentlicht: 09.11.2013
4 Kommentare
2. The River

The “Narrative Clip,” a wearable, life-logging camera that shoots a photo every 30 seconds.

The statistics are staggering, almost incomprehensible. It is estimated that every day, 1.3 billion photographs are made. Of those, 350 million are uploaded to Facebook. Google+ users, who are currently being offered some of the most advanced and easy to use photo-editing tools to lure them away from Facebook, are posting another 214 million a day. 150 million photos are shared through Snapchat, 55 million via Instagram, and another 1.4 million are added to Flickr. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 05.11.2013
8 Kommentare
1. A Moving Target

Using Still Searching as a shared space, what I hope to do over the next six weeks is both to stimulate a dialog and extend a project I’ve been working on lately, which involves taking a broad look at photography as the medium itself is in the midst of transformation. To that end, watch for links I’ll post periodically to online news reports and timely stories about provocative images, events, and issues in visual culture. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 01.11.2013
3 Kommentare
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15.09.–31.10.2013
5. Delirious Anthropology

I feel like I’ve spent the last four weeks overstating my scepticism about contemporary art’s retrospectivity—as seen in the repurposing of modernist art and architecture, the incorporation of pre-existing archives, and the retrieval of outmoded mechanisms of display. All three are examples of art’s fascination with the past that too often forgets to keep its sightlines on the present. This week I’d like to conclude my series of blogposts by looking at three recent videos that take past works and pre-existing archives as their starting point, but which do so in order to assess the present: Provenance by Amie Siegel (recently on show at Simon Preston Gallery in the Lower East Side), Grosse Fatigue by Camille Henrot and Ricerce Three by Sharon Hayes (the last two exhibited at the Venice Biennale). mehr

Veröffentlicht: 26.10.2013
1 Kommentare
4. Displaying Research

Last week I promised a discussion of Goshka Macuga, whose new show at Andrew Kreps Gallery is yet another example of the retrospectivity trend I’ve been tracking in these blog posts. Macuga’s work synthesizes a number of points that addressed in previous weeks: the obsession with modernism, the archival character of contemporary installation art, and the display of information and research. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 11.10.2013
5 Kommentare
3. Archival Myopia

This week and next I’ll be addressing another retrospective tendency in contemporary art: artists presenting other people’s archives. This is already a well-known strategy on the biennial circuit: think of Akram Zataari presenting the archive of Lebanese studio photographer Hashem el Madani (Studio Practices, 2007), or the Otolith Group presenting the photo archive of Anasuya Gyan Chand, former president of the National Federation of Indian Women (Daughter Products, 2011). In a less global and more local vein, Carol Bove’s current show at Maccarone presents the archive of Harry Smith and the Qor Corporation (1958-1962), a New York-based studio that sought to explore the possibilities of mylar (a kind of polyester resin) as a print base for kabbalist designs. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 02.10.2013
4 Kommentare
2. Monumental Bling

It feels like a million new shows have just opened in Chelsea for the new season, and several of them chime perfectly with my theme for this blog: the retrospectivity of contemporary art, particularly the current fascination/obsession with Modernist art, architecture and design. In this post I’m going to focus on David Maljkovic at Metro Pictures, but also The Propeller Group at Lombard Fried; there are other shows too, but I’m going to save them for next week’s blog. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 24.09.2013
4 Kommentare
1. How Did We Get so Nostalgic for Modernism?

I’m going to use this blog as a way to test out some ideas relating to a series of essays I’m putting together on the retrospectivity of contemporary art. What do I mean by retrospectivity? The tendency, found almost globally, for art to quote and repurpose pre-existing cultural artefacts. Pre-eminent among this tendency is the trend for repurposing Modernist art, architecture and design. There have been a number of exhibitions circling around this theme: think of I Moderni (2003), Altermodern and Modernologies (both 2009), and of course the leitmotiv of Documenta 12 in 2007 (‘Is Modernity Our Antiquity?’). mehr

Veröffentlicht: 14.09.2013
3 Kommentare
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01.06.–15.07.2013
5. Image Couple

Of all the arcana produced by our collective obsession with Roland Barthes’ theory of photography in the book Camera Lucida, by the endless exegesis and investigation this text on photography seems to inspire, I find the following the most impressive. Buried in a footnote two-thirds of the way to the end of Eduardo Cadava and Paola Cortés-Rocca’s essay “Notes on Love and Photography,” a text first published in October magazine a few years ago, we read: mehr

Veröffentlicht: 16.07.2013
1 Kommentare
4. Sharing Seeing

“I am looking at eyes that looked at the Emperor.”

I am citing Roland Barthes, from the opening of his book on photography, Camera Lucida. I want my post this week—a shorter post than usual, a set of questions or ponderings more than an essay—to act as a kind of postscript to last week’s entry.

I intimated there that photography invokes a rethinking of vision, of the look and of the gaze. Surely this is well-trodden territory. But is it exhausted? Does it need to be re-opened? Last week, my subject was the irreconcilability at the heart of photographic seeing, the non-coincidence of the gaze in photography as one of its most essential features. But there is of course another set of relations attached to the photographic gaze that needs further reflection. I am thinking now not of non-coincidence, but of doubling; I am thinking of what I want to call the recursive structure of photographic sight that non-coincidence spawns. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 02.07.2013
11 Kommentare
3. Blind Spot

Not too long ago, I was combing through an antique store in a California town populated today mostly by the remnants of the counter-culture. There was a large selection of used books. To my surprise, I came across a copy of a monograph I had long wanted for my library, Mary Ann Caw’s volume on the photographer Dora Maar. Hippie villages, even post-hippie villages, always have the best bookstores. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 20.06.2013
13 Kommentare
2. The Philosophers

And I ask: How did the beauty of that hair,
those eyes, beguile our forebears?
How did that mouth kiss, to which desire
curls up senseless as smoke without fire?

Thus Walter Benjamin breaks into poetry, citing the writing of Stefan George, in the 1931 essay “Little History of Photography”—this essay so strangely titled, sharing its self-stated size and density and intensity, we might say, with the object of its analysis, with photography itself—its images formerly miniaturized and condensed. What is a “Little History,” I’ve always wondered? The best I have come up with is that Benjamin’s is a text that wants to correspond with its object, an essay that wants to be like photography itself. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 11.06.2013
12 Kommentare
1. The Relational Field of Photography

At the end of last summer, during one of my trips from Los Angeles to New York, I was lucky enough to be able to visit the artist Zoe Leonard’s first exhibition at the gallery Murray Guy.

I knew what to expect. Leonard is one of the key figures in my forthcoming book on what I’ve been calling photography’s contemporary “lateness” or, perhaps more provocatively, its “afterlife”—a recalcitrant use of the medium that alters its fate today through a paradoxical reconnection to photography’s earlier histories, its specific and unrealized potentials. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 31.05.2013
14 Kommentare
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5. Popular, not Populist

My apologies for the extended silence. I have been putting the finishing touches to a book about the relation between popular culture, art and photography, which will also be the subject of this blog entry.

It seems generally accepted now that photography became a modern medium of art in the 1920s. This was when it gave up its resistance to the widespread industrial basis of photography (Pictorialism is thought to have typified that resistance) and came into a close or parallel relation to the medium’s various social functions. Photography triumphed artistically by remaking, diverting, re-presenting or otherwise contemplating its ‘applied’ forms such as the document, the film still, the advertisement, the commercial portrait and the archival image. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 27.05.2013
7 Kommentare
4. Optics and Desire

In 1996 I was living in Brixton, south London, during a very hot summer. On July 12 Nelson Mandela came to visit and the crowds turned out to greet him in the thousands. I had been active in the anti-apartheid movement and gathered with some friends opposite the main sports hall where Mandela was due to arrive and address some local dignitaries. As Mandela and his entourage approached the steps of the hall the crowd was ecstatic. I had never seen such emotion and tears of joy.  Mandela stood before us. He waved, smiled and then disappeared with the throng around him into the hall. We had waited hours to see him, and in a very real sense many people there had waited decades to see him.  So actually setting eyes on the man was intense, to say the least. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 17.05.2013
6 Kommentare
3. Backwards and Forwards

For many years I have been looking through the back issues of the 20th century’s illustrated press. Magazines, journals, newspapers. It is really impossible to write or teach the history of photography without doing this. The Sunday Times Magazine from March 24, 1968 carries, among other things, Don McCullin’s celebrated black and white images of soldiers in Vietnam - one throwing a grenade, another lying dead with his possessions spilling out.

Don McCullin, 'This is how it is', Sunday Times Magazine, March 28, 1968

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Veröffentlicht: 02.05.2013
6 Kommentare
2. From One Photo to Another

We rarely make or see photographs singularly. They come in sets, suites, series, sequences, pairings, iterations, photo-essays, albums, typologies, archives and so on. Daily experience involves moving between one image and another. Editing, the selection and arrangement of images, provides perhaps the most vital bridge between photographs in the particular and photography in general, although more so for image-makers and publishers than for critics and theorists, it seems. I’m struck by how few writings there have been about the complexities of photo editing as it takes shape in mainstream media or in more resistant practices. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 22.04.2013
6 Kommentare
1. Photography and Photographs

My first post will be quite long but I will make up for it with shorter subsequent posts. I’m hoping they will add up to an essay on a single theme: the relation between photography in general and photographs in particular, although this may change in response to comments and contributions as we go.

I begin with some thoughts about how Still Searching has developed since it launched last year, and what this might say about the 'Online Discourse on Photography’, as it is subtitled. Back in January 2012 I was invited to be a co-blogger for the first two contributors, Bernd Stiegler and Aveek Sen. Since then I have watched with interest. The discussions have ranged far and wide but I note a polarization between thinking about ‘photography’, which most contributors seem to feel is too complex and contradictory to be a unified field (without quite giving up on the term all together) and considerations of ‘photographs’ (this or that image or specific project). mehr

Veröffentlicht: 14.04.2013
16 Kommentare
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5. The Production of Documents

“In history everything begins with the gesture of setting aside, of putting together, of transforming certain classified objects into ‘documents.’ This new cultural distribution is the first task. In reality it consists in producing such documents by dint of copying, transcribing, or photographing these objects, simultaneously changing their locus and their status.” 1

In The Writing of History (1975), Michel de Certeau criticized the perception of documents and archives as dormant sources waiting to be collected and interpreted by historians. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 08.04.2013
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4. Another Threshold

Edouard Manet’s Portrait of Emile Zola, from 1868, currently on view at the Royal Academy in London in the Manet: Portraying Life exhibition is usually interpreted as a testimony of the friendship between the artist and a writer who was one of his strongest supporters in those years. The painting shows Zola seated sideways at his work table, surrounded by papers, objects, and pictures that point to this relationship, and, it has been noted, to Manet’s own tastes: a decorated screen on the left, a pamphlet bearing Manet’s name on the desk, and above, in the top right corner of the picture, a Japanese print and a lithograph of Velasquez partly concealed by a reproduction of Manet’s own Olympia. It is to these last three objects I would like to direct my attention, in order to think about a technological and aesthetic threshold a century-and-a-half back that may or may not serve as a model for the relationship between analogue and digital photography today. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 28.03.2013
1 Kommentare
3. The Opacity of Photography

One of my students recently declared she believed there was nothing to learn from Flusser’s writings on photography. For her, digital technology expanded the possibilities of photography well beyond what Flusser described as the pre-defined program contained within the camera apparatus. The same went for the idea of the impenetrability of the “black box,” which seemed ludicrous in today’s context of widely shared technical astuteness and the infinite possibilities offered by photo-editing software. If Flusser’s work certainly appears dated in some ways, as Walead Beshty suggested in one of his posts on this blog, discussing the 1986 essay “The Photograph as Post-Industrial Object,” other texts, notably the lectures given in Arles in 1984 that were later re-worked into the book Towards a Philosophy of Photography, are still well worth reading. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 21.03.2013
7 Kommentare
2. Welsh Water

One of the pictures that I always come back to when thinking about object photography is a black and white image by the artist Jean-Luc Moulène entitled Bi-Fixe, 7 September 2003. It shows two PET bottles of mineral water from Wales sold under the brand Ty Nant, which have been laid flat onto a medium-colored background and photographed directly from above so as to avoid distortion. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 11.03.2013
4 Kommentare
1. Platinum Blondes and a Bearded Lady

“The grammar of cinema is a grammar uniquely its own.”

Jean Epstein

I remember once being fascinated at the discovery that the silky, almost-white, blond hair of many Hollywood stars from the Golden Age was only an illusion, – a contraption developed for the silver screen. The ability of platinum blond to reflect light endowed actresses clad in shimmering gowns with a radiant halo, bestowing upon them an enticing inaccessibility. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 01.03.2013
4 Kommentare
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5. A Look Forward

In my last post, I want to have a look at the challenges that may arise from the increasing use of both still and moving images by photographers. The first is, of course, whether photographer is still an apt term to describe these practitioners, or whether “digital camera artist” and “digital camera art” would not be more adequate terms – thus signaling a certain discontinuity and a distance to those who wish to artificially preserve  a certain type of photographic traditionalism and all of its attendant trappings. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 19.02.2013
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4. A Look Back (Part II)

In my post from two weeks ago, I pointed out that, despite their shared characteristics, film has been traditionally associated with artifice and fiction, whereas photography was supposed to have a preferred access to reality. This is, of course, due to the fact that in mainstream cinema film is used to create primarily narrative works, i.e. it defined the temporality of film as essentially narrative. This has shaped the relation of the two media. It sometimes seems that photography is haunted by its very limited narrative capacity in comparison with film. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 12.02.2013
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3. A Visit at Plat(t)form 2013

Instead of continuing my last post, I will allow myself a digression. Last week, I attended the annual Plat(t)form event at Fotomuseum Winterthur, where young photographers from all over Europe showcase their work. And indeed one could observe, as befits the topic of my blog posts that young photographers are increasingly beginning to take advantage of the fact that their cameras can record both still and moving images. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 05.02.2013
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2. A Look Back (Part I)

If one wants to gauge how the relation of still and moving images is shifting, it is useful to look back at the relation of film and photography in the analogue age.  Both media relied on the same optical apparatuses and photochemical processes – they produced images by exposing a photosensitive surface to light refracted by a lens. The images they produced were essentially indexical, and yet this indexicality has played a very different role in the reflection of the two media. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 28.01.2013
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1. The Shifting Relations of Still and Moving Photographic Images

The debates on the advent on digital photography in recent years have largely focused on the question whether the digital turn has essentially altered the nature of photography, and whether digital photography could indeed, strictly speaking, still be considered photography at all. Inherent in these queries was naturally the question of the respective validity, superiority, or inferiority, of digital and analogue photography. mehr

Veröffentlicht: 14.01.2013
3 Kommentare