Tag, aesthetics
23.04.–15.07.2020
2. Beyond Newhall?

We don’t have to beat around the bush: the photo historian, curator, and university teacher Beaumont Newhall has not enjoyed an excellent reputation for quite a while now. 1982 seemed to mark a watershed for him. more

Published: 06.05.2020
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16.04.–31.05.2014
4. Whitewash: Artist and Models

When one reads this passage [from Martinique by Michel Cournot] a dozen times and lets oneself go; that is, abandons oneself to the movement of its images—one is no longer aware of the Negro but only of a penis; the Negro is eclipsed. He is turned into a penis. He is a penis. (Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Masks)1Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, (London: Pluto Classics, 1986) p. 169-70. more

Published: 12.05.2014
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3. A Tale of Two Mapplethorpes

A large retrospective of Robert Mapplethorpe’s work has just opened at the Grand Palais in Paris. It is coupled with another Mapplethorpe exhibition at the Musée Rodin where Mapplethorpe’s photographs—I am not joking—are displayed with various sculptures by Rodin.

Mapplethorpe-Rodin, exposition at Musée Rodin, Paris, from April 8 to September 21, 2014 (installation view by Abigail Solomon Godeau).

As it happens, Mapplethorpe did photograph sculptures (torsos, heads, and backs) in ways not so different from those he used to photograph living bodies, although it seems not to have mattered if the sculptures were authentic, copies, classical, neoclassical, or kitsch. Somewhat perversely (I use the term advisedly), the photographs of sculpture are in the Grand Palais show, whereas the pictures in the Musée Rodin are mostly of living bodies (or body parts) as well as the miscellaneous self-portrait or still life. More to the point, what the exhibition really demonstrates is that for good or ill, Rodin’s sculptures, plasters, or small studies have nothing whatsoever to do with Mapplethorpe’s work and vice versa. Why would they? more

Published: 30.04.2014
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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. more

Published: 17.05.2013
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01.06.–14.07.2012
4. Aesthetic Equality

In this fourth posting, I consider a sequence of photographic images and accompanying text fragments that a group of Ramallah based artists and writers - Basel Abbas, Ruanne Abou-Rahme, Nahed Awwad and Inass Yassin - created together with and coordinated by Shuruq Harb and Ursula Biemann (ArtTerritories). Preceded by an introductory essay entitled "Looking Back at Today" – written by Biemann and Harb – this photo-textual work of art was published as an insert in A Prior #22 (2011). more

Published: 29.06.2012
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5. Toward a Museum of Convention

Last week’s post concerned itself with the academy as a mode of distribution for aesthetic discourse and how the inclusion of art within higher education has the potential to shift the understanding of intellectual research and debate, specifically by forcing intellectual discourse to come to terms with its own monetization. Before going further, I think I should address what I mean by the use of the phrase “aesthetic discourse.” I mean not only that which is written or spoken about aesthetics (this is really secondary, and significant only when it shifts the conditions of aesthetic production). But primarily I mean communications or debates that happen through aesthetics. more

Published: 19.05.2012
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4. Aesthetics and Distribution Case (1): Preliminary Notes on Art’s Ability to Radicalize Academia

“…each encounter produces a new position of assemblages, even as it simultaneously defines a new use for these assemblages” -Gilles Deleuze

In this posting, I would like to pursue an earlier tangent, and redirect it. If we start with the idea that a medium is constituted by a dialectic of applied use and technological development, and that it is further defined by the conventionalization of the relationship between the two (a process that occurs over time and is in a state of constant revision) it follows that a medium is never freed from its use, nor is it freed from its position between some agents in a transaction, meaning that it can never stand apart from these conditions. more

Published: 07.05.2012
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3. The Question of a Medium's Identity

Last week, I attempted to draw forward a peculiar thematic in photography criticism and theory and the parallel instability of the term “photography.” At its base, a technology that has such a variance of instrumental applications and contextual meanings presents some intractable problems for art historical discourse, and its preference for discrete objects over more broadly systemic social or epistemological conditions. In other words, art history still maintains echoes of the assumption of aesthetic autonomy within its adherence to medium divisions, an interpretive schema that runs into difficulties when dealing with photographic objects, and the elasticity of the term photography to describe practices which range from fine art, to the journalistic, and cover objects as varied as platinum palladium and vegetable dye on paper. more

Published: 30.04.2012
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2. Notes on Photography and Loss

On the long flight from Los Angeles to London I undertook last week (which at the time of this posting going live, I will be completing in the reverse) I reread “The Photograph as Post-Industrial Object” by Vilém Flusser. In it Flusser asserts that “We are witnessing a cultural revolution”, a revolution consummated by digital images (what he refers to as “electromagnetized photos”) where “one can see how information abandons its material basis,” threatening to usher in “a society dominated by uncontrolled apparatus… thrown back into the terror of blind, absurd automaticity, into a pre-cultural situation.” more

Published: 23.04.2012
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1. Conventions, Conditions, and Practices of Photography Conceived as a System of Relations

As works of art have increasingly embraced the polysemy of images—to the point where the question of what a particular image depicts has become all but minor in the discussion of contemporary art—what we generally describe as photography continues to be understood as primarily depictive (and to that end as a transparent medium) and taken in unitary terms (i.e. taken as discrete pictorial worlds rather than as objects in an expansive aesthetic distributive system). more

Published: 14.04.2012
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