5.1.2016 Research

I am interested in camera-less photography with comparisons of contemporary artists Alison Rossiter and Meghann Riepenhoff – I am interested in focusing on female artist-photographers that can link back to the history and early image-maker Anna Atkins.  Perhaps then I am interested in researching female artist-photographers who use camera-less techniques since the inception of photography to current contemporary practices ….using three examples, Anna Atkins (b. 1799, early photography, 19th Century), Alison Rossiter (b. 1953), and Meghan Riepenhoff (b. 1979).  The question at hand then is why is “analog” photography considered obsolete when there is a trace of using non-digital/computer aided techniques from photography’s beginnings till today.  Why are contemporary artists interested in this practice?  Why was Anna Atkins unacknowledged as one of the first photographers (side thought:maybe answer is simply because patriarchy.) ignored by Beaumont Newhall in his History of Photography?  Is it the link with science?  Is scientific photography not considered art (like with Berenice Abbott’s Science Portfolio?)…ok that is getting a bit off topic maybe….rabbit hole research.   

Other thoughts: the connection with science/scientific practice and these three women’s work.  Contemporary practice perhaps linked to the diy movement, going back to older methods, etc.

“The act of making each image is like a performance, with only the photographer present.” – Virginia Heckert, Light, Paper, Process

Combo of technical expertise and intuition…

Discoveries from today’s research (I have found myself going down a rabbit hole of research many times as you will notice, because Internet.) :

  • 2014 exhibition What is a Photograph?  at ICP in NYC “explores the range of creative experimentation that has occurred in photography since the 1970s.  This major exhibition brings together 21 emerging and established artists who have reconsidered and reinvented the role of light, color, composition, materiality, and the subject in the art of photography. In the process, they have also confronted an unexpected revolution in the medium with the rise of digital technology, which has resulted in imaginative reexaminations of the art of analog photography, the new world of digital images, and the hybrid creations of both systems as they come together.”http://www.icp.org/exhibitions/what-is-a-photograph   “Artists around the globe have been experimenting with and redrawing the boundaries of traditional photography for decades,” said ICP Curator Carol Squiers, who organized the exhibit. “Although digital photography seems to have made analog obsolete, artists continue to make works that are photographic objects, using both old technologies and new, crisscrossing boundaries and blending techniques.”

Thoughts: Why is analog considered to be rendered obsolete according to Carol Squiers quote above?

A few selected images from this exhibition include:

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  • Artist, Sigmar Polke – considered a painter but he used many mediums including photographic methods.  The first image below reminded me of Meghann Riepenhoff’s cyanotypes. Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 3.18.57 PM.pngScreen Shot 2016-05-01 at 3.19.40 PM.pngScreen Shot 2016-05-01 at 3.28.04 PM.png
  • The above image of Sigmar Polke’s reminds me of Riepenhoff’s image:

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  • Allison Rossiter — Received associate degree of applied science at RIT in 1974.  liquid intelligence, history of photographic materials/medium, process is chemically oriented in immersion, dipping, pouring, pooling developer onto expired photographic papers.  Minimal interventions, “assisted readymades”.  Methods can be compared to painters Helen Frankenthaler, Jackson Pollock…whose work favored the natural viscosity and flow of paint.
    • “It takes the knowledge of a scientist to understand the potential of the materials and the sensibility of a romantic to unleash that potential, celebrating the unique characteristics of the papers, flaws and all” (19)
    • http://bordercrossingsmag.com/article/paper-wait-the-darkroom-alchemy-of-alison-rossiter
    • “The image is not abstract, but the technique is.  It only requires light and chemistry, and it goes directly from idea to object without making reference to a thing.”  The Indecisive Image, ARTnews, March 2008
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      Kilborn Acme Kruxo, exact expiration unknown, ca. 1940s, processed 2013, 2013

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and Riepenhoff example:

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  • 2008 group exhibition The Death of Photography, Rossiter, Robert Burley, Michel Campeau at Bulger Gallery   “When the invention of photography was announced to the public on January 7, 1839 it created a sensation for both its advocates and adversaries. At present, photography is arguably more popular than ever, but it is also at the end of an era. Digital systems are rapidly making analog materials obsolete. This exhibition includes the work of three artists who are each commemorating this milestone event in the history of art and technology.”http://www.bulgergallery.com/dynamic/fr_exhibit_press_release.asp?ExhibitID=162
  • Article, The Indecisive Image, by Eric Bryant, March 2008 http://www.artnews.com/2008/03/01/the-indecisive-image/
    • “And while recent years have witnessed a market enamored of pristine oversize prints that require labored postproduction, cameraless photography reintroduces immediacy and chance into the process. “Rather than working six hours on the perfect print, I can go into the darkroom without an idea and just let a direction appear as I work,” says Rossiter. Other observers see the pull of art-historical influences. “I think that a lot of these artists are getting back to these movements in the history of photography connected with light experiments,” says Marcoci. “But they are also looking beyond photography or even abstraction to the artists in the 1960s and ’70s who used unconventional techniques, like James Turrell, Gordon Matta-Clark, Anthony McCall, and Robert Smithson.”
    • “The idea of photographic “truth” is undermined by the conceptual investigations of subject matter in Cindy Sherman’s film stills and Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s staged street scenes as much as by the mass media’s embrace of Photoshop. Digital advances in the commercial realm have drawn art photographers’ attention back to a range of earlier methods. “I find 19th-century photography most interesting because the medium was not yet standardized,” says Breuer.
    • “Over the last decade or so, these two techniques (unique cameraless prints in the darkroom or rendering real subjects unrecognizable as a result of manipulations) have been joined by a third: process-based work, which is indebted as much to recent research into the methods of 19th-century photography as to the process artists of the 1960s and ’70s.
    • “A desire to engage with the accidental motivates many of the artists whose work can be categorized as darkroom abstractions. “
    • Rossiter is quoted in this article, “The move to digital imagery is fantastic in terms of postproduction and especially in photojournalism,” the artist acknowledges. “But the way that silver gelatin materials make use of light and precious metals is astounding, and there is nothing like the beauty of 19th- and 20th-century materials.” Rossiter has also made photograms, the oldest and still most widely practiced cameraless technique.
    • “Conceptual concerns regarding the objectivity of the image, the limits of perception, and the intrinsic properties of materials have moved to the fore as photographers venture into the digital age.”

Anna Atkins –  Photographs of British algae: cyanotype impressions http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/collections/photographs-of-british-algae-cyanotype-impressions#/?tab=navigation&scroll=121

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Meghann Riepenhoff –  The artist’s book Eluvium consists of reproductions of the original photograms from the series, printed on Epson Luster paper with Epson Ultrachrome 3 pigment inks and adhered to Canson paper. “The word eluvium describes residual deposits of soil and sand produced by wind. To create these images, I cast sand on sheets of light-sensitive paper in the dark. I then spoke, sang, cried, and otherwise generated breath in almost touching proximity to the paper, my actions moving the sand into formations. I exposed and processed the paper, titling each image after what I said or did to create it.”Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 8.09.59 PM.png

Unique cyanotype accordion book, 19″x12″x2″ below

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5.1.2016 Research

Photography &/as Moving Image

George Baker – Photography’s Expanded Field, October, 114  2005

Baker begins by stating that in the today (of 2005) of contemporary art, the photographic object is in crisis – a “severe transformation.” which includes the digital transformation & the shift of the term “photographic” to “cinematic”.  He considers photography displaced aesthetically…with examples such as Jeff Wall making connections to older mediums like painting, Gursky’s scale due to new digital possibilities, Rineke Dijkstra uses video and sound alongside her still image, etc.  When Baker states, “even the most traditional of a younger generation…cannot now resist the impulse to deal the concerns of other mediums into their practice”…I wonder if this statement rings true with how programs are shifting into a more interdisciplinary approach, merging and opening artistic practices to be more inter dimensional.  I personally prefer this approach as it is how I myself practice.  I wonder about the “most traditional” youngster he speaks of therefore and I am curious if Baker is against this as he calls it a “lamentable expedient, an insufficient bride to other, more compelling forms.”

Sidenote: all three of these readings were challenging to understand so I am synopsizing what I can understand of them…

Baker focuses on his interest/curiousity in the motion and stasis of contemporary work, including Nancy Davenports work, and how it curious because of its dualistic cinematic & photographic approaches…..an approach he considers a “hiccup of indecision.”  almost as if both approaches are a reluctance to choose sides.  I think this approach and the pushing of let’s call it interdisciplinary could be what Baker terms the “expanded field”…that photography’s slipperiness allows it to move and shift and to adjust with the changing technologies, to age with them so to speak.  An expansion of its discipline if you will.  “Perhaps, indeed, photography’s expanded field, unlike sculpture’s, might even have to be imagined as a group of expanded fields, multiple sets of oppositions and conjugations, rather than any singular operation.”  Baker calls for the importance of “mapping” the oppositional fields – to map the tearing of “narrativity, and stasis”.  Motion = narrative…moving away from the static object-image.

The built (constructed) and non-built:  Modernist opposition of narrative (moving, cultural) and the stasis (unthinking, nature).  “the gradual relaxing of the rending suspension of photography between the conditions of not-narrative and not-stasis that would signal the emergence of postmodernism in photographic terms.” Postmodern examples include the “Pictures” generation which Baker focuses on Cindy Sherman’s untitled ‘film stills’ which “would not call themselves photographs, and that would hold open the static image to a cultural field of codes and the refocus of what I am calling not-stasis.”

The field diagram below show Baker’s mapping approach  “two artists here, then move obliquely away from and yet thus manage to continue the critical hopes of modernism; the other simply inverts its terms, allowing the ideological expulsions of modernism to shine forth without disruption.”Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 8.14.48 PM

I am perplexed by Baker’s explanations of Sherman/Coleman/Wall, but what I did get is the importance Baker is underlining by making these diagrams is to focus less on the individual artists but more on the movements/tranformations/changes of the medium itself.  “We are dealing less with ‘authors’…than with a structural field of new formal and cultural possibilities, all of them ratified logically by the expansion of the medium of photography.”

Counter-presence: 1990s, stasis – “always pushing the still image into a field of both multiple social layers and incomplete image fragments.”  The ‘still film’ / projected image


Documents of Contemporary Art – The Cinematic – David Campany, Intro//When to be Fast? When to be Slow?

Film & photography paradoxically are at the same time similar and dissimilar.  Speed & movement was something they had in common in terms of how practitioners of most of the 20th century used the mediums, later tho contemporary artists, in order to be radical, switched to slowness.  (24-Hour Psycho comes to mind).  “A stubborn resistance to the pace of spectacle and money-driven modernization seemed the only creative option”  Cinema perhaps worked better for showing movement, “Right from the start the fixity of the still photography presented challenges – technical and aesthetic – for the depiction of time.” Cinema turned “stillness into arrestedness.” Campany says plainly that photography has become a “simple & primitive medium” yet he refers later to Barthe’s  comment that cinema ‘domesticates the essential wildness of photography.”  Campany goes on to state that the serial or sequence has been photography’s greatest achievement – so a merging of the photographic and cinematic, not ‘static’ but not in full swing either, a “para-cinema” he calls it.  His examples include Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, Robert Frank’s The Americans.  Notably these types of work for not made for the wall but rather in a book or magazine, influenced by cinema’s “assembly of images.”

However Campany points out that there are significant differences between this comparison – the slowness of a photo book versus a moving cinematic experience, the stops, and gaps in a photo series cause separation in the narrative – “static photographs show far more than they tell“.  Cindy Sherman’s film stills for example take their cues from cinema yet do not tell one narrative, she rather used “a range of stock femininities familiar from cinema”

(( It’s interesting to me that there are Youtube videos of whole photo books.  Its a curious expansion and update to the way a photo book is to be viewed because now it is no longer a book but a moving image.  ))

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Tom Gunning – Moving Away from the Index: Cinema and the Impression of Reality 

In this essay Gunning in interested in cinema’s realism and strives to find alternative approaches to defining this quality from the photographic index.  He wonders whether the photographic process is the only means to an index.  In the past cinema’s realistic aspects have been connected to its use of photographic histories.  Gunning summarizes the ideas of a few theorists,  Charles S. Pierce and Andre Bazin .  Pierce uses the index, defined as a “sign that functions through an actual existential connection to tis referent”.  Gunning states that the index should not be the only way to think about cinematic realism and brings Bazin’s theories in, which are more focused on the aesthetic basis, styles such as “visual, aural, and narrative.”…an “aesthetic world” as opposed to Pierce’s semiotic, logical approach.  Gunning finds problems with these theories when including “animated pictures” (animated, CGI, etc) which often get pushed to the side because they don’t fit into the “luminous mold” created by these theorists.    “Cinema has never been one thing” he says later, its a “braiding” of many aspects that change over time including scale, proportion, sound, color, display, etc.  Digital technology has added to this braid, and Gunning introduces some of Lev Manovich’s ideas “that the arrival of new digital media reveals cinema as simply an event with in the history of animation.” which would put the importance on the motion of cinema rather than the photographic qualities.  Motion creates strong emotional and physiological experiences for the viewer, “can shape and trigger the process of both emotional involvement and intellectual engagement.” Motion and the idea of participation was an even greater emphasis for theorist Christian Metz. Motion could “inject the reality of motion into the unreality of the image and thus to render the world of imagination more real than it had ever been.” Participation is “affective and perceptual”and it is movement that affects the spectator, “bodily sensations of movement can engage spectator fantasy through perceptual and physical participation.”

Photography &/as Moving Image

Photography &/as Digital Media – pt 2

  1. Jason Evans – Online Photographic Thinking 

Evans begins his essay by stating that he doesn’t believe that photography has made the most of the new, as of 2008, ‘frontier’ that is the World Wide Web.  He is underwhelmed and wonders why there haven’t been greater leaps expanding photographic ideas into this new realm of digital possibilities.  Evans who explains his personal navigation as an ‘experimental’ photographer has been inspired by early innovators  during his schooldays in the 1980s such as Brian Eno – he gives his Mistaken Memories of Medieval Manhatten (1981) as an example of asking questions of visual reception (in this case television view versus the vertical photograph view)

Sidenote: Another version, a much lower quality version is below. What’s interesting is this person had to upload the video as a “part 1 of 4”, etc. perhaps due to size(?) These are interesting to compare as platforms (Vimeo versus Youtube), image quality, questions of original content come up – where were this taken from? etc.   (And also Brian Eno’s music in the Vimeo portion is very relaxing to listen to as I write this.) 😉

Evans explains that he has learned how to, successfully he adds, use the Web as a tool for showing his work in interesting, new ways.  He attributes the switch to taking pictures with mobile devices and also wifi access and being a radically ‘tool of ldelivery’.  For Evans, the Internet and new digital technologies are democratic, liberating, & inclusionary.  Evans exclaims his newfound freedom, “the new technologies gave me license and encouraged me to deliberate less about whether or not to actually take a picture.”  Because of the ability to take picture after picture and not worry about number of frames, film rolls, etc. digital cameras enable the user to be free to get the images they desire without worrying about materials.  This connects to a democratic way of art making in that photography became way more affordable and accessible to a larger group of users.  He does note some contradictions with becoming overly snap happy, giving the example of his TheDailyNice.com site where he would upload one image every day but would not keep an archive – he would delete the previous days image…to “kill my darlings one by one, which has been a cause of anxiety for many viewers.”  These happy moments were just that, moments, and encouraged viewers to experience the “ephemeral aspects of photography.”  This reminds me of the difference between the apps Instagram and Snapchat…tho I am not very familiar with the latter my understanding is Snapchat does not keep past images unlike Instagram’s archival, image blog style.

Evans then directs his thoughts toward the importance of how the Internet has the power to connect to vast audiences.   It has been linked with globalization…going beyond borders, connecting internationally.  The ability to show art via the Internet not only allows for a wider circulation reach, but also at a significantly lower cost in production than in paper publications…again returning to the idea of the democratic Internet.  Shift in ownership also changes the dialogue to focus more on the content rather than who owns the work.   Evans does note that the Internet as a means to show work may not be for everyone but, “if an audience is what you prefer (as opposed to a physical thing like a book or a show as the testimony of your photographic talent), then the Internet is for you.”  Evans believes that digital is just another avenue, another technology, like the other predecessors of how photography has evolved…it’s not better it’s just a new way of making/doing/showing.  It’s an expansion, not a limiter.  He believes digital allows for a more direct engagement with the image itself…to let go of the object “thing-ness” of photography and jump right into the content.  However there are still presumptions of what is “serious” high art in the contemporary art world and this brings up questions of whether the Internet can be a place for the “serious” artist.

Most of the links Evans uses to illustrate his opinion…or his own work….are non functional now…given that this article was written in 2008.

Themes I noticed..Evans believes the internet is: inclusive, affordable, new form of presentation/distribution, democratic, diverse, intimate

All judgement up front, I found a lot of Evans’ article to be self praising and directed to what is in my opinion hipster photo culture.  The desire for hits, likes, who is hot, etc. I appreciated the comments to this article…which also speaks to the platform that Evans was using ..the fact that he is receiving comments is a sign of the internet age.  I appreciated Penelope Umbrico’s response the most…perhaps biasly because she was the only female voice in the conversation, she called the internet a “visual index of ourselves – a constantly shifting auto-portrait.”  … “the loss of aura-to have extended into the very essence of the Web.”

2. Lev Manovich’s The Practice of Everyday (Media) Life: From Mass Consumption to Mass Cultural Production?       Briefly I will touch on this article as I just am seeing the update to the blog assignment.  Manovich also points out themes such as affordability, etc and is interested in how media functions and what it means.  He spends some time explaining the shift to web 2.0 which includes media moving to social media.  Here he focusing on strategies & tactics and how their roles have evolved and shifted between institutions (producers) and individuals (consumers).  Usually strategies are employed by the institutions and tactics by the individuals.  Tactics are adaptations. Remixing is an example of a tactic.  Producers use what the consumers remix and regurgitate it out to sell ..”today strategies used by social media companies often look more like tactics” and vice-versa.

3. The article I chose to read from Omar Kholeif’s You Are Here – Art After the Internet is called May Amnesia Never Kiss Us on the Mouth by Basel Abbas & Ruanne Abou-Rahme.  They state that everyone is online saturating the Internet with the “intimate parts of our offline/online lives.”  Since anybody can add to the online environment creatively, to the “afterlife of our experiences”, they ask,“What do artists as artists matter now?”  The artist as archivist seems to have been replaced by the activist as archivist.  The position of artist is no longer as central, “activists shaping events on the ground, they are at the same moment producing and circulating counter-narratives through images, videos, sound, and text.”…and is a “fundamental way of rupturing the spectacle of power.”  People on the internet are using artistic methods such as appropriation, documenting, remixing, and performing them publicly. “The archival impulse is everywhere”       In terms of the political sphere, Abbas & Abou-Rahme state that the “politics and power of the record as testimony, whether as images, sound, or text, has perhaps never been as publicly grasped or contested.”  The flip-side to all the online documenting is that it is impermanent, and provides intel for surveillance purposes.  Control of information is therefore an issue…as Abbas and Abou-Rahme “anything can be removed….we are amidst a struggle over the future of these forms: one that goes to the heart of the critical struggle over the production and control of knowledge .” Finally they ask, without answer, how will the changes affect the ‘archivable and future memory?’



My internet art example is performance artist who goes by the alter ego of Hennesey Youngman.  (a persona invented and performed by Jayson Musson).  Started in 2010,  He uses his alter ego to satirically embody a millennial art critic or the anti-thesis of an art critic perhaps is more correct.  These are pretty hilarious considering he has his MFA and is mentioning a lot of the folks we’ve been discussing over the last year.  But he is also commenting on how the internet is able to be used.

Photography &/as Digital Media – pt 2

Photography &/as Digital Media

Julia Child Remixed by John D. Boswell (melodysheep) for PBS Digital Studios.  (will discuss with the Bourriaud…and enjoy.)


Jeff Wall, Photography and Liquid Intelligence –

Wall begins his essay using the imagery of the exploding milk in his piece Milk to describe how photography can be utilized for embodying unpredictable natural forms and movement – the “infinitesimal metamorphoses of quality.”  This movement he describes as “liquid”, relates/contrasts to the “dry” institution of photography through photography’s processes of the wet/water – the liquid chemicals that are harnessed for photography’s creation.  This “liquid intelligence” speaks to photography’s history, ” the echo of water in photography evokes its prehistory.”  The “dry” of photography refers to the mechanical aspects – the shutter, lens, equipment, technological modifications, etc.  The advent of digital technologies in photography marks a displacement of the water and an expansion of the “dry.”  Digital technologies replace the archaic processes.   Although he states this change directs photography into a “generation of electricity”, Wall’s own opinion of this is comme si comme sa…he doesn’t think this drought’s affect is good/bad….but it will change the histories to follow.  He is curious how this will play out.   I can understand Wall’s point of wet versus dry in terms of process but I do get a bit mixed up when he starts to talk about the subconscious – and in his example of Solaris, the ocean studying the human experimenters and how that can be related to photography’s liquids studying us.  I get a little stuck on the metaphor .  “The ocean is itself an intelligence which is studying them in turn” and his final sentence, “In photography, the liquids study us, even from a great distance.  Working through it I can see the people from their pasts (in Solaris) being like the old liquid processes.  So perhaps the “dry” generation of digital technology still echoes memories of the liquid processes of the past and new ways are created that have been inspired by the old processes  (?)


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Jeff Wall, Milk 



Jorge Ribalta, “Molecular Documents: Photography in the Post-Photographic Era, or How Not to be Trapped into False Dilemmas,”

Ribalta begins his essay by referencing William J. Mithcell’s 1992 statement that photography is dead — displaced permanently but paradoxically, liberated.  This liberation.  Ribalta questions why this is so, and is not convinced by Mithcell’s analysis believing that the same questions come up for photography regardless of this belief in the afterlife…that not much has/would change.  He asks what has caused this afterlife, this “post-photographic condition”?  Answer, digital technology – a death/loss of materials – the ceasing of producing photographic analogue cameras, papers, chemicals.  This he states has “forced photographers to reconsider their relationship to their own materials” through new forms of experimentation, crossing between analogue and digital.  It has also opened up a whole new realm for amateurs by making photography more relaxed, disposable, & instantaneous.  No longer do photos need to be printed, no longer to people need to create photo albums…all is stored and modified privately, digitally…causing negatives and prints to become nearly obsolete.  This has shaped the term “post-photography”, “a cultural transformation is involved in the technological decline of chemical photography.”  Photography tho “dead” remains a culture and actually Ribalta emphasizes, it “explodes into culture.”  Kaboom.  The “photographic is born”.   Ribalta references Gilles Deleauze and Felix Guattari’s term ‘molecular’ to describe the photographic….which he doesn’t go into any explanation of what that means immediately…still a bit confused about it.

So by making the liquid intelligence nearly obsolete, digital technology creates a “crisis of photographic realism” as digital will always be an imitation of the real, the analogue.  Ribalta questions there can be a cultural and political photography without realism.  “The loss of realism means the factual liquidation of photography’s historical mission in modern culture.” It’s interesting considering the Wall use of liquidation, that in this case Ribalta is using it as an elimination.  He continues to underline that without realism, particulary documentary,  photography is pointless (dead) because the real (the analogue) connects to photography’s history.  Without this connection to history Ribalta asks how can photography remain connected socially/politcally/culturally?  This is the challenge in the digital generation, a challenge that elicits new ways of creating….and calls for a “bidirectional critique of representation” to go beyond the modernists and to invent “ways to deterritorialize photography, of producing practices in which realism is reinvented.”

Ribalta revisits the idea of “molecular” in this reinvention challenge…”A molecular realism involves overcoming the opposition between documentary and fiction and reinventing documentary methods based on the negotiation of the relationship between author and spectator.”  A molecule by definition is, ‘a group of atoms bonded together, representing the smallest fundamental unit of a chemical compound that can take part in a chemical reaction’…so it seems they are relational, so the importance of using molecular in Ribalta’s way is the bond (relationship) noted above. I am not convinced I have that right, but I’m trying to work it out.

Ribalta offers Jo Spence’s work as an example.   Her “process oriented work emodies possible alternatives to the limits of an institutional critique confined to the museum, and opens a space that is still under explored.”  How?  She specifically is focused on her spectators being in a counter-public sphere (Ribalta exemplifies i.e. women’s groups, therapy settings, community centers).  I looked up Jo Spence’s work and am still somewhat unclear how to connect the work to this description, mainly because the images are not telling me what/where their context is…so I’m not going to post an of her work because I can’t fully defend it as Ribalta describes.

In his description of the survey at the Museu D’art Contemporani de Barcelona…Ribalta loses me.  He asks, “how do we use critically and polemically that structure in a post-photographic era” …speaking to the structure of universal language.   If realism is necessary…but persists “with or without us”…then why all the fuss?


Nicholas Bourriaud, “Post Production”

Postproduction is not a sequel but a sort of continuation of Bourriaud’s essay Relational Aesthetics because of the artistic scene described. The common denominator (theme) for this is the inter human sphere – relationships with people, communities, groups, networks, etc. “Relational Aesthetics was content to paint the new sociopolitical landscape of the nineties”  Posproduction was written in the early 2000s, and deals with more of the changes and modes of production. He states, it seeks to “establish a typology of contemporary practices and to find commonalities.” by looking at many of the same artists discussed in Relational Aesthetics and new artists.  Postproduction is more about form and the themes of rethinking & reexamining in relation to creation.  Postproduction reveals how artists are questioning the notions originality, “newness” and going beyond old ways of appropriation by shifting from the idea of ownership to collectivity/sharing.  “more and more artists interpret, reproduce, re-exhibit, or use works made by others or available cultural products. This art of postproduction seems to respond to the proliferating chaos of global culture.”  Bourriaud uses the example of DJs and the programmer as cultural object selectors and recreation using preexisting works.  And he attributes much of this collective hive mind to the culture of the Internet.   He sums up an outline of postproduction with five main points.

  • Reprogramming existing works: artists use works already made and change their context, usage, etc.  For example Riirkrit Tiravanijahs Untitled (Playtime):Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 12.11.35 AMhttps://mirjamvantilburg.wordpress.com/2008/01/14/rirkrit-tiravanija-untitled-playtime-1997/
  • Inhabiting historicized styles and forms: using the ideas of for example minimalism, pop, conceptual.  Sarah Morris (right) for example creates paintings in the modernist fashion, referencing paintings like Mondrian (left) for example
  • Making use of images: for example taking scenes from movies and changing them or only taking parts of or adding music/voice over original sound.
  • Using Society as a catalog of forms: taking cultural graphics or advertising like logos, phrases, jingles, packaging
  • Investing in fashion & media: looking to visual culture for inspiration Vanessa Beecroft fuses/references performance & fashion photography.Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 12.27.54 AM

The commonality in this typology outline is the use of “already produced forms.”

“The artistic question is no longer: ‘what can we make that is new?’ but ‘how can we make do with what we have?

They Remix.  With this in mind Bourriaud focuses on the DJ as artistic re-mixer.  Ownership is “abolished”…DJs for example loop already composed pieces of music to create new versions or completely new songs with that hint of history intermixed.  “The remixer has become more important than the instrumentalist”

Going back to my question about realism in Ribalta’s pieces, there is a quote in Bourriaurd’s essay I found compelling: “Art must concern itself with the real, but it throws any notion of the real into question.  It always turns the real into a facade, a representation, and a construction.  But it also raises questions about the motives of that construction”  …by placing in other contexts.

Going back to the Julia Child remix at the top of the blog post, you can see different uses of re-invention — the artist John D. Boswell (melody sheep) takes different clips from Child’s wide retrospective of television segments and mixes, loops, repeats, edits, etc to make a completely different piece that is, as a form, something totally different than the original works use and intention.  Also the music is curated in a way that is edited and most likely sampled and not “original”.

Below is a video about a specific drum loop that has been used by many people, for many different usages than the original.

Photography &/as Digital Media

Photography, Art, Landscape, Nature and the Environment in the 21st Century

W.J.T. Mitchell’s preface update to the Second Edition of Landscape and Power focuses on redirecting the viewpoint to a more relative one, about space & place. Mitchell first explains that the term power in landscape is overused in analysis, and also actually not very powerful compared to how power relates to culture i.e. government, corporations, etc.  He opines that landscape & power is actually passive – the background or landscape of an image is “generally the ‘overlooked,” not the ‘looked at’.”  When looking at landscapes, it is generally done holistically as in “look at the view” instead of specifying what to look at in the image – the mountain, the lake, the tree, etc.  Mitchell further emphasizes that the landscape experience is a “mandate to withdraw” – which is interesting to use the term mandate, which is in itself a term of power – to order with authority, to officiate.  So the power in landscape lies in its “aestheticizing distance”, “to draw out by drawing back from a site.”

Mitchell then switches gears to back to the focus of his preface update, and asks the question, “What happens to landscape when its effects are gauged in relation to space & place?” Mitchell explains that the under analyzation of landscape more holistically (in terms of power, space, & place) has to do with critique stemming from art historians directing interest in painting and architecture.  Mitchell thus is attempting to analyze from an untapped (or under tapped) point of view.  Using Michel de Certeau’s model of landscape as field, space and place exist as polar binaries:

  • Space
    • “Practical Place”
    • Direction, Velocity, & Time variables
    • Geometry
    • Abstraction
  • Place
    • Stability
    • Law of the Proper
    • Specific Location, particularity
    • per David Harvey place “retains a concrete, complex, and sensuous existence beneath the spatial codes of mapping & depiction
      • “an empty place is filled with space, as if space were the negative void that rushes in when a place is vacated.”

In Contrast is Henri Lefebvre’s traidic spatial organization based on:

  • Perceived (space)
    • daily activities & performances that ‘secrete a society’s space’
  • Conceived (place)
    • Power
    • planned administered, consciously constructed (by architect,
    • “intellectually worked out” verbal signs
  • Lived (landscape)
    • mediated through images & symbols
    • experientially passive – “imagination seeks to change and appropriate”

Mitchell’s interest in Lefebvre’s model is in its triangulation in wholeness (topically) rather than the binary model of Certeau. Mitchell’s viewpoint is one of a ‘dialectical triad, a conceptual structure that may be activated from several different angles….activated by movements, actions, narratives, and signs, and a landscape is that site encountered as image or sight.”  He gives the example of Central Park being in a specific location where lots of activities occur, and “consumed”, or seen/viewed, as a “series of picturesque tableaus”.  Power or conceptualized space comes into play in such situations as saying “this happened here”


Side thought: Monuments and Power – one thing that really stuck with me from Mark Sealy’s lecture was his comment about building (buildings) & power – in terms of leaving a mark versus the historical invisibility of nomadic peoples.

Peter Apsden, The beautiful and the damned; Nadav Kander’s gift for communication has secured him the second Prix Picket for environmental photography.   Nadav Kander won himself the 2009 Prix Picket photography prize themed “Earth” with his body of work on China’s developments along the Yangtze River.  What stood out was Kander’s “attention to the ‘smallness of the individual’, seen in such works as below:Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 1.37.04 PM

Also up for this prize was Andreas Gursky and Yao Lu, which Apsden explains that all the submitted projects “capture the art-versus-journalism dilemma”.  This dilemma brings up issues of beauty and the question similar to that which Susan Sontag has posed regarding loosing the power/meaning of an image due to making it something beautiful.  The Prix Pictet hopes to preserve a ‘moral imperative’ and wishes to “effectively chronicle the dangers posed to the environment.”  And above all, they are looking for work that continues to ‘shock us into overdue action.’  So the prize’s hope is to act in a way like a visual activist in a sense…so promote work that elicits a reaction and responsibility of the viewer.


India Windsor-Clive, “New Landscapes: Yao Lu”  Yao Lu, who was also up for the Prix Pictet mentioned above, creates landscapes that trick the eye, initially.  They talk about culture and climate change through referencing traditional Chinese painting style but with photographic imagery that speaks to the waste of society (and its impact on the landscape).  His work is a reflection of what is happening in China’s modernization, construction, and transformation of its physical environment.  The mounds that at first glance could be believed to be beautiful picturesque mountains are in fact piles of waste covered with dust covers — a weak attempt to cover up the negative impact of “capitalism and power, modernity and progression.”  “Yao Lu criticizes economically driven policies that sacrifice tradition and Nature in the race for modernity.”  His work brings up the question of photography and truth, photography and beauty(in situations of destruction), and photography and power through this critique of the ‘the sublime’ Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 1.44.03 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-27 at 1.45.10 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-27 at 1.46.54 PM

Side Thought: I’m curious about Lu’s choice of presentation, in particular the circle (above).  This curiosity derives from my own use of circles – or on looking through a view that isn’t the traditional square/rectangle format.   I haven’t been able to find any info on his presentation format so wonder what other people think about it. I’m drawn to this work because of the manipulation or eye trickery in relation to landscape, as that is something I’ve been tackling in my current work. *** I asked George and he answered my question – the shape of the image, (whether a circle, scroll, oblong) is Lu referecing again to traditional Chinese painting, like this:Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 2.22.14 PM



Madeline Bunting, “The art of survival: Artists are waking up to climate change. But what good can they do – and how green is their work?”   Bunting’s article highlights a handful of artists whose work speaks to climate change.  Written in 2009, she explains, “Some activists have wondered why the art world has been slow to grasp the significance of climate change, so you could argue that these exhibitions represent a dramatic awakening”.   Tomas Saracenno’s installation, from the exhibition Rethink in Copenhagen & London’s Royal Academy’s EARTH show, is part of this awakening in which he hopes to cause people to “rethink the things you take for granted.”Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 4.52.01 PMCurators are wishing to give people an aesthetic response to climate change, tho issues of beauty are again challenged when involved with catastrophic climate change themes. Bunting uses Bright Ugochukwu Eke’s work, Acid Rain, as an example.  The plastic bags Eke fills and hangs look like a chandelier, bright and playful…however they contain carbon dust which is causing dangerous levels of air pollution in areas of Nigeria. Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 4.53.44 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-27 at 4.53.23 PMArtist Gary Hume talks about the inability to convey fully the world’s dilemmas so he looks to his own life for inspiration.  I’m curious about his work as I think I’m not fully grasping it, it seems unimpressive honestly but am I missing something??Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 7.49.09 PMBut he does bring up an interesting topic about how the people who support his work do the most damage to the world…which would be a great struggle to deal with when one’s work involves environmental consciousness/ impact awareness themes.  Also our own art materials also add to the mess….using resources like paper, chemicals, plastic, etc. all have an impact on the earth’s natural reserves & our changing climate.  Which Keith Tyson brings up with his Nature Paintings – all made with toxic chemicals and all the while causing some visually stunning effects.  Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 7.56.35 PMTyson believes the artist’s role isn’t to advocate solutions, and like Saraceno, believes the more passive power of art is to cause reflection and rethinking.  Others like James Marriott disagree and believe there is a greater sense of purpose to transform and persuade.  Marriott also is concerned with how artists impact environmental issues and the widely unacknowledged carbon footprint of the contemporary art world.  Others still, like Cornelia Parker, find responding to such a huge topic challenging and can reimagine work to fit in with communicating environmental impact themes, or “co-opted into the climate change narrative”  Her piece Heart of Darkness was part of the Earth exhibition, and was not originally conceived with climate change in mind. Yet it works, with the fragments of charred wood from forest fires:

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 4.20.38 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-29 at 4.21.01 PM


Roslyn Taplin asks the question, “Can and does climate change art crystallize a different subjectivity within viewers?” in her article Contemporary Climate Change Art as the Abstract Machine: Ethico-Aesthetics and Futures Orientation.  Crystallize is an interesting term…to make or become definite and clear…or to persevere.   Taplin believes the “drivers of climate change art has bene the ineffectiveness of recent UN climate negotiation conferences..which have achieved little diplomatic progress.” Scientists and artists are collaborating on projects such as the 10+ year eco-political project Cape Farewell.


Thinking about other works I’ve seen lately that could apply to the conversation, the work of Daniel Beltra came to mind after seeing it recently at Catherine Edelman Gallery.  His artist statement reads:

“The fragile state of our ecosystems is a continuous thread throughout my work. It is in nature’s beauty and complexity that I find my inspiration. My photographs show the vast scale of transformation our world is under from man-made stresses. To capture this, I have found it is often best to work from the air, which more easily allows for the juxtaposition of nature with the destruction wrought by unsustainable development. Aerial photography gives a unique perspective emphasizing that the Earth and its resources are finite.

By taking viewers to remote locations where man and nature are at odds, I hope to instill a deeper appreciation for the precarious balance we are imposing on the planet.”

So it seems he would align with the goal of art activating a rethinking of our impact on the world.

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 8.50.25 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-27 at 8.46.57 PM


Photography, Art, Landscape, Nature and the Environment in the 21st Century

Photography & the Pain of Others

Regarding the Pain of Others is Susan Sontag’s final published book, before her death in 2004.  This last critique on photography & the pain of others focuses on questioning her own opinions from her 1977 essays in On Photography.  She asserts to “feel an irresistible temptation to quarrel with them” (her opinions).  I feel a lot of respect for someone who can do that.

She begins by calling attention to some of the ideas emphasized in On Photography that she is re-evalutating.  First, that images (photography) cause war to become “real” – that it is through media that we can become aware, “mobilized.”, and it is media that controls what we see.  Secondly, she believed in 1977 that we are “hyper-saturated with images” and because of that it lessens the affect, we become “callous” and lose the possibility of Barthe’s experience of punctum.  The reality she spoke of in her first point becomes less real.  Or that was what she believed then.  She questions this in her final critique, “Is this true?”  and “What is the evidence.?”  She turns to television, which it seems she believes is the main media that causes a tiring or draining — what’s important is the way images are used, where, and how often.  Television uses an “instability of attention” connected with an “image-glut” and “image-flow”.  This instability is affected by the saturation of imagery, the ability to flip channels which feeds short attention spans and the constant need for new stimulus.  This contributes to a “deadening of feeling.”  She then moves on to the argument that “modern life consists of a diet of horrors.”  She explains that even before television, even before photography, writers in the 1800s like Baudelaire and Wordsworth noticed and were disturbed by this “blunting of mind” due to the over abundance, the “nonstop feed” of horrific news.  Television has sped up this feeding frenzy, “flooded with images of the sort that once used to shock and arouse indignation, we are losing our capacity to react.”

Sontag explores two viewpoints from On Photography,  a conservative critique and a radical critique. The former viewpoint is that of a  “sense of reality that is eroded” which she calls a defense of reality.  The conservative viewpoint believes our ability to respond with emotion is eroded because of the limitless bombardment of violent images.  The latter viewpoint, the radical, believes in a “society of spectacle”  and it is the spectacle that is reality.  To support this she notes that “it is often asserted that ‘the West’ has increasingly come to see war itself as a spectacle.”  However, she pushes back on this opinion immediately by saying that it is of a privileged view to believe in such spectacle reality.  “It assumes that everyone is a spectator.  It suggests, perversely, unseriously, that there is no real suffering in the world.”  Even for those with televisions, she believes, “they do not have the luxury of patronizing reality.”  She goes on to remark opinions of images of war come from two sides of a spectrum – from “cynics” to the flipside, the “war-weary.” Folks who fall into the cynic camp are skeptical, suspicious, but they have never been involved in war, and are judgmental of the photojournalists who make images of war.  The “war-weary” are those physically affected by war she goes on want their horrors to be recorded, but also they want them to be unique – not paired with other examples of war, of suffering, of world atrocities.  “It is intolerable to have one’s own suffering twinned with anybody else’s.”

Chapter 8 begins a few paragraphs in with a very poignant couple of lines…”Let the atrocious images haunt us.  Even if they are only tokens, and cannot possibly encompass most of the reality to which they refer, they still perform a vital function.  The images say: This is what human beings are capable of doing – may volunteer to do, ethusiastically, self-righteously.  Don’t forget”   By not forgetting we remain connected to compassion – “heartlessness and amnesia seem to go together.”   Further in she also emphasizes the role of photography — or what it isn’t meant for — that a photograph can invoke attention but not more than that, it can cause reflection, increase knowledge….they are a way of watching at a distance – and she isn’t judging that watchingness anymore.  “There is nothing wrong with standing back and thinking.”  She does go on in Chapter 9 however to say that to look at images of war in the setting of a gallery (museum, etc) is disturbing and that there is a difference (means something different) between seeing an image in the newspaper versus on the wall of a gallery.



Mark Reinhardt – Picturing Violence: Aesthetics and the Anxiety of Critique.

Aesthetic: concerned with beauty or the appreciation of beauty.

Aestheticization: the act of making something visually pleasing, particularly in art.

Reinhardt begins by saying that in regards to images of people in pain/war the “image is an indictment.” He says they cannot be forgotten – “burn into memory.”  How do we react to images of suffering when they are “beautiful”?  He uses the term “aestheticization” which becomes a challenging subject when talking about images that depict suffering.  Images become politically and artistically challenging in that they question our reasons for and how we consume such images.   Reinhardt’s essay focuses on a handful of artists to “explore both the conceptual limits of the idea of aestheticization and the anxieties that underwrite it – anxieties that, I contend, ultimately prove to be about the very nature of photographic representation itself.”   Reinhardt talks about how American media controlled what kinds of images became public during the Iraq war, concentrating on the archives of Abu Ghraib.  The media at first often didn’t show close up images of the war i.e. images of dead civilians, dead U.S. soldiers, etc. – the images were often seen at a distance, from a  high vantage point (often the air).  Once more close up images were accessible to the public – such as the prison images at Abu Ghraib – then there was a response of horror and outrage from the West.  The image of the hooded detainee is an example.  Reinhardt further explores this by saying that photography could be used to show the atrocities but also could be used as a tool of shame – for the people depicted….which led to questioning whether when these images go public whether it is ethical to blur the faces of the violated.  These images could cause prolonged suffering because the image never ceases to be, it is “endlessly extending  the moment of violation.” It is interesting that images of suffering American soldiers were not widely spread – that instead media would show images of grieving families and memorials rather than an image of a dead person – which Reinhardt compares to Luc Delahaye’s image of the dead Taliban soldier.  This image didn’t receive outrage and Reinhardt contributes that to a acceptance through exoticization…”the more remote or exotic a place, the more likely we are to have full frontal views of the dead and dying.”Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 9.24.33 PM

The idea of beauty is really interesting and complex when dealing with images of suffering.  I was of course thinking about Richard Mosse’s work that are visually stunning aesthetically – mainly color – however their subject matter can become problematic in the who, where, why (is this photographer documenting).  “Photography tends to aesthetize, and aestheticization prompts passivity or contentment in the face of trauma and injustice.”

Artists and images Reinhardt includes in his Beautiful Suffering: These images are indeed troubling and Reinhardt is interested in whether it is in the aestheticization that causes such an outcry when seeing images such as the below.  Can such images, like how James Nachtwey hopes/believes, “bring aid to the afflicted by challenging the complacency.”..? Reinhardt later in his essay explains that this image, Sudan, (which is really hard to look at because it doesn’t even seem possible it could be a true reality, but so devastating knowing it is and that’s coming from a privileged perspective of not knowing what it is like to live in conditions that create situations of devastating hunger, etc…which is kind of what Sontag was talking about when distinguishing “realities”) is a “failure of acknowledgment” because as Cavell wrote in The Claim of Reason the image’s “‘intention is to acknowledge the outcast as a human being,’ while the ‘effect is to treat the human being as an outcast’ ”

James Nachtwey’s SudanScreen Shot 2016-03-15 at 8.30.08 PM


Joel Meyerowitz vs Thomas Ruff — the Two Towers

Images of the September 11th, 2001 destruction were highly recorded and shared throughout mass media.  Reinhardt uses this to illustrate and question the ethics of the spread of images of such immediate and horrific images of mass suffering.  In fact he explains that the government put restrictions in place on who and how images could be taken at ground zero.  Joel Meyerowitz was the only person given permission to do so.  One image from his documenting the site of the destruction is North Tower and Woolworth Building.  Reinhardt says, “The resulting photograph conveys a sense not only of destruction and loss but also of active, even heroic, recover.”


Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 4.24.11 PM

In contrast, Reinhardt then talks about Thomas Ruff’s jpeg ny01 .   Ruff is an example of how easily accessible images are though the Internet and as part of his jpeg series he used appropriated images to emphasize and enlarge the pixels to transform to a digitized and abstracted image. Reihnhardt explains the pixelation causes a distancing and also the experience of viewing creates a viewer push and pull of distance where up close it becomes a blur of color but far away the eye can form a concrete image.  He also emphasizes how it “invites doubt or anxiety about its own labor” and also in relation to suffering, “Ruff ‘aestheticizes; the suffering of others in that an occasion of extreme violence became the subject of a photograph that insists one pay sustained attention to its formal features.”  Tho due to the nature of the image and what we know of what happened, it still creates questions or “moral unease” Reinhardt believes Ruff’s image though aestheticizing creates a dialogue around “mass-mediated” culture .

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Shimon Attie’s The Writing on the Wall project –

Reinhardt asks, “Should beauty simply be shunned in the photographic representation of suffering?” Attie’s work is an example to look and think about this question.  The images Attie projects onto building in Berlin’s Jewish quarter are from these very places prior to the Nazi occupation and the devastation of the Holocaust (Shoah).  They show life before and life after (and the memory and knowledge of what happened in between lingers with those who see these images).   Reinhardt describes the images that Attie takes of the projections on the buildings as “haunting” confrontations.  They are not well received in the conscious memory.  However, they also are beautiful images.  “Even as it invites visual pleasure, the image also expresses and arouses sorrow.”   Reinhardt further says, “The picture invites reflection on place and displacement, loss and erasure, and photography’s role in the making of collective memory, in sustaining the presence of the past.  The beauty of the work shapes and intensifies the invitation.”  Beauty doesn’t necessarily mean it negates or “trivializes”.  It can act as an elegy, a way to deal with something so terrible.   (note that Reinhardt points out that the ‘elegy’ doesn’t apply always and that some images are truly for producing an outcry and outrage i.e. Sudan)


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Alfredo Jaar’s installation piece The Eyes of Gutete Emerita is ‘about seeing and the failure to see.’  Responding to the crisis in Rwanda in 1994, Jaar created a time sensitive installation that requires the viewer to sit through long extended periods of text and then a sudden flash of the eyes.  It is a temporal experience, very different from the other examples Reinhardt includes in his essay.  Jaar specifically never shows images of the horrors the text illustrates…the only imagery included in the installation are the eyes, which are hardly present at all due to their quick flash duration.  “Jaar explained the pace of the work as an attempt to resist the habits of museum-and gallery goers who tend to move every few seconds from work to work, image to image.”


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The final image that I will include from Reinhardt’s essay is Alan Schechner’s It’s the Real Thing – Self Portrait at Buchenwald.  This image received a fair amount of criticism.  Schechner digitally added himself into an image from the Holocaust, a widely known image by Margaret Bourke, it “directly presents suffering of people in a situation of extremity.” The digitally added can of Diet coke glistens in a form of mockery – for the non-caloric beverage that people consume for enjoyment juxtaposed with images of real people who suffered from starvation, malnourishment and worse terrors.   As with Attie’s projection Schechner is dealing with his own families connection to the Holocaust and Reinhardt explains it serves as a “way of making the burden of that history his own.” The additions and the appropriations have a related meaning and intention.  Reinhardt also emphasizes that Schechner is putting his image into a photograph, not the actual camp and that also because the appropriated image is well known, he is also questioning “how the Holocaust has been represented in visual culture and what moral and political effects those representations have.”

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Photography & the Pain of Others

The Tableau Form

Michael Fried’s Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before

Chapter 6 – Jean-Francois Chevrier on the “tableau form”; Thomas Ruff, Andreas Gursky, Luc Delahaye

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*Section One:

Fried declares that “the tableau from” is arguably the most decisive development in the rise of the new art photography..

Fried begins Chapter Six with excerpts from Jean-Francios Chevrier’s 1989 essay The Adventures of the Tableau Form in the History of Photography, where Chevrier himself coined the term ” the tableau form.”  Chevrier is a French art critic, historian & curator living in Paris. Key points in Chevrier’s argument about the new developments in photography starting in the late 1970s – 1980s include:

  • they are designed & produced for the wall
  • confrontational experience on the part of the spectator
  • scale restores the “distance to the object-image necessary for the confrontational experience – but implies no nostalgia, not reactionary
  • frontality, autonomy as object
  • not about elevating to rank of painting, but using tableau form to “reactivate a thinking based on fragments, openness, and contradiction
  • a return to classical composition


Fried’s thoughts on Chevrier’s essay

  • Size matters
    • only works of a certain size could “self-evidently hold the wall in this way”, could not have confrontational experience without the increased size
    • This is why Thomas Ruff was led to enlarge size of his portraits as they started off much smaller in scale five years earlier (Fried emphasizes that Jeff Walls early lightbox work would have inspired Ruff to increase size and also the newly availablility of large-size negatives and positive printing paper)
  • The confrontational experience
    • Fried agrees with Chevrier, as this marks a break with traditional modes of photographic reception & consumption (i.e. photos traditionally found in books or magazine or seen up close by one viewer at a time)
    • That they are conceived for wall changed the viewer’s relationship, “result that it enters into a new kind of relationship with its viewers, who are themselves transformed, reconfigured as viewers, in the process”
    • enforced distance – viewing relationship changed to distance between work and viewer, “facing off” confrontation
  • Restitution of the tableau form
    • art of 1960s & 70s opposed to tableau form (by photographic conceptualists)
    • Chevrier writes “many artists…”have reused the painterly model and use photography, quite consciously & systematically, to produce works that stand alone & exist as “photographic paintings”
  • “to reactivate a thinking based on fragments, openness, and contradiction” This kind of thinking went against the modernist ideals of the 60s/70s
  • definition of tableau – no direct equivalent in english ..”picture” is closest but “lacks the connotations of constructedness” – i.e. “picture” lacks the intellectualism that the word “tableau” offers — is that just because it’s French??  Snob. 😉
    • Chevrier writes, ” The photographers of today who consider themselves and manifest themselves as artists – taking into consideration the public space in which they exhibit – can no longer merely ‘take’ pictures; they must cease them to exist, concretely, give them the weight and gravity, within an actualized perceptual space, of an ‘object of  thought'”


*Section Two:

– Thomas Ruff – Portrait series, 1981 – 1991  – started in 1981 (of friends & acquaintances)

  • used a view camera with single flash
  • 1981  – all followed a particular set of protocols
    • bust portrait
    • mode of representation neutral as much as possible
      • to avoid any psychological interpretation
      • every sitter photographed like a “plaster bust”
      • Ruff assumed photography showed only surface of things
    • sitters would wear their ordinary clothes, seated on stool, photographed with serious but calm expression – no show of feelings – and no retouching of blemishes, etc.
    • colored backgrounds, to avoid monotony (sitters chose color)
  • originals measured 24 x 18 centimetersScreen Shot 2016-03-02 at 7.45.25 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-04 at 3.46.51 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-04 at 3.48.07 PM
  • by 1986 size increased , but minimized background color to only white/off white because when enlarged the color became too dominant
    • used largest paper available – enlarged to 210 x 165 centimeters (approx 7′ x 5.5′)
    • uniformity – all frontal “bust shots”, lighting eliminated shadows, became more uniform with the larger/white backgrounds/limited shadow method
  • Series ended in 1991 when the large photographic paper was discontinued Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 3.49.17 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-02 at 7.46.16 PM
  • Portrait series established Ruff’s reputation as one of the leading photographers of his generation
    • “seem to represent an almost necessary phase in the emergence of the new art photography”
  • Ruff, “I don’t give viewers a chance anymore to draw conclusions about the lives of the people I portray”
    • criticism (Regis Durand) of his work has often referred to it as “cold”, that they “express” and reveal nothing about intimate lives of sitter – no personality — that that reflects on the “coldness” or indifference of the photographer
    • he’s not interested in interpretation, frustrated that viewers will project their own feelings/lives, problem with people wanting to know who the people are,
    • Peter Gallasi critiques them as “monumental icons of blankness”  photography able to record everything but reveal nothing
  • Ruff says, the portraits amount to enlarged passport photographs – much of the “shock” is in contrast of size of the tiny generic norm of a passport photo
  • Fried is interested in the “significance of the portrait as a basis for Ruff’s decisive intervention”
    • rigorously frontal – face the viewer – facingness
      • “systematically seek to frustrate the viewer’s empathic or projective or identificatory impulse” and “take the picture as a picture” which “gives rise to a singularly strong defect of confrontation and distancing ” associated with the tableau form
      • “the abstracting and hypostatizing of facingness in Ruff’s portraits place those works firmly in the orbit of painting.”
        • connection between faces & painting – most expressive “surfaces” human beings encounter
        • Gertrude Stein wrote in her essay Pictures – “there is a relation between anything that is painted and the painting of it. And gradually I realized as I had found very often that the relation was so to speak nobody’s business”
  • autonomy – Ruff says “the picture has an autonomous existence apart from what it represents, or that it acquires a life of its own”
  • Fried discusses the historical dimensions of the portrait by bringing in engagement with Manet’s paintings, for example Olympia – regarding motifs of facingness, beholding, autonomy.  Fried notes however that he wishes to only make a partial analogy between modernist painting of the 1860s.  But Fried does remark that a “radicalization of the portrait in the interest of facingness takes place”  in particular Manet’s sense of beholding by acknowledging the painting as a painting (materiality of pigment & flatness, brushstrokes).  Similarly Ruff’s images acknowlegde the picture as a picture.
    • Manet’s Portrait of Victorian Meurent, 1862 – Fried remarks that this portrait most closely exemplifies beholding/facingness radicalization. Strikingness and facingness similar to Ruff’s PortraitsScreen Shot 2016-03-04 at 3.40.03 PM
  • In Ruff’s works including Portraits, Houses, and Stars, they “work against the grain of his subject matter” by :
    • depsychologize faces (Portraits) – expressionless
    • treat as mere shells (Houses)
    • presenting minute sections (Stars) which are detached & objectiveScreen Shot 2016-03-06 at 2.16.36 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-06 at 2.15.57 PM
  • Fried also loosely compares many of Ruff’s works to other painters and movements such as Cezanne, Impressionism, Expressionism, and Cubism (Houses related to Cezanne regarding picture plane, Stars perhaps related to Impressionism, Nudes analogous with Fauvre or German Expressionism due to color, the JPEG series recall Pointallism)  BUT he emphasizes that Ruff isn’t thinking about these things, it’s interpreted, and that these comparisoins are not as strong or serious as the Manet – Ruff Portrait comparison.



*Section Three

Andreas Gursky 

About half of the chapter Fried devotes to examining Andreas Gursky’s work.  I hadn’t made the connection until reading this chapter that Gursky showed work in the MoCP’s recent North Korea exhibition but the more I started to understand Gursky’s motifs, that I will explain below, the greater the connection formed in my brain about the work up in the Museum in the Fall…because yes, Gursky certainly has a particular style/formula that is noticeable throughout his many years of photographing. Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 12.43.26 PM

Fried begins by looking at some of Gursky’s early works and continues his examination of his work by focusing on individual pieces throughout his career.  Many of the motifs revolve around Fried’s mode of anti-theatricality.  Regarding Sunday Strollers, Dusseldorf Airport, 1984 (above), an early work, key components Fried begins with include:

  • the unusually wide format of the picture
  • the everydayness, the undramtic (antitheatrical) quality of the subject matter
    • Often depicting ordinary people & their leisure activities
  • Distance between photographer to subject matter (physically and psychologically)
    • This relatedly causes a disconnection between the viewer & the image
    • And subjects also unaware of photographers presence
  • Viewed from behind (often with subject’s backs to camera)

In Klausenpass, 1984 (below) Gursky hadn’t actually noticed the figures of the hikers in the distance when he took the picture.  I actually hadn’t noticed them immediately either when I looked at the image in the book.  His use of a view camera enabled for the small details to emerge.  Again to further emphasize the points above – the subjects are unaware they are being photographed, Gursky is at a great distance & behind them, and they are  absorbed in what they are (leisurely) doing,  – which again all relates to anti theatricality and autonomy.  All these components serve as, what Fried terms, a severing device. “From this moment on, distance as a “severing” device plays a decisive role in Gursky’s art.”  These methods lead to a micro/macro experience for the viewer.  For one the viewer must approach the image closely in order to gain sight of the details but also must stand back in order to see the image wholey.

  • Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 9.22.43 PM

 High vantage point becomes an additional tactic in the work that follows.  For example in the image Swimming Pool, Ratingen 1987 (below) Gursky is at a distance but also the view is from above the subject scene. The subjects are unaware, at a distance, and the viewer’s experience is detached….severed. Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 9.05.09 PM

Tokyo Stock Exchange, 1990 (below) depicts another addition to his work, this time a change in density, what Fried calls “all-overness”.  Notice in this image how filled the frame becomes with his subjects, tho they are still unaware, going about their business (absorbed) , aloof, and Gursky is above and far away.  Here uniformity comes into play – the subjects style of dress, their absorption, and movement – stresses the theme of obliviousness.  Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 1.23.19 PM

Gursky even describes himself as if he is an alien from another world, observing at a distance.  This very thing critic Peter Galassi writes causes the viewers to “never become participants.” Fried takes this a step further by saying that this again reemphisazes the anti-theatrical metaphor.

Also important to note is how Gursky’s work began to question the idea of detail & point of view in what the human eye can realistically see and cannot see.  His images like in Salerno, 1990 offer a view of a world that is so detailed that there is no way a human’s eye experience could compare. Therefore it is  “impossible that the images are grounded in an originally perceptual experience on the part of the photographer” Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 9.05.22 PM

At this point Fried focuses on seven features (he says 7 but actually lists 8) of Gursky’s work that show up in the 1990s that “belong to a renewed and revised antitheatrical tradition.”  They also all have to do with severing the viewer of the subject.

  1. Digital Manipulation – This causes a disconnection of the picture and its real world source/origin and therefore loses its indexicality.  The image Rhine II, 1999 (below) in reality had buildings along the shores of the river which Gursky has digitally removed.  Gursky says, “sine the photographic medium has been digitized, a fixed definition of the term ‘photography’ has become impossible.”  The severing occurs with the disconnect/removal of the original perception as the image below does not exist as it is seen here in real life.  Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 9.10.10 PM
  2. Obstructions of View – Many of Gursky’s images are also shot through barriers, for example looking through glass walls, fences, or windows like in Happy Valley I, 1995 (below, right)  and 1993 .(below, left).  The latter show the painted lines of glass siding of an overpass.  There is a presentness but also a distancing/disconnecting as these lines create visual barriers to the scene below in the distance.  The obstructions sever the viewer from the subject.


  3. Diptych – Peter Galassi calls the third feature Gyrsky’s use of “diptych form.”  This example Fried uses the diptych Hong Kong Stock Exchange, Diptych, 1994 (below) where Gursky has shot two different viewpoints of the room but they do not realistically match up.  Galassi considers this to be an “outrageously fictional space” and “violates spacial logic.” Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 9.16.19 PMFried includes a photo of the actual room to give you a better understanding of how severed the room became with Gursky’s diptych approach…which serves to sever the viewer’s perspective to anything that is real.  Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 9.16.48 PM
  4. Flat Absorption – the subjects in Gysky’s images are unaware and completely absorbed in their activities but moreso they do not show any emotion attached to their absorption.  There is a sense of flatness in emotion, also because of the uniformity in repletion (clothing, color), and also due to the high vantage point.  This can be seen in the image Nha Trag, Vietnam, 2004 (below)  This flattening absorption affects the viewers connection to the human subjects, severing the relationship! Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 9.06.20 PM
  5. Globalization – Gursky frequently photographs locations across the globe showing large areas affected by globalization such as stock exchanges and manufacturing plants.  What speaks to Fried is this idea of globalization but also, as Galassi writes, its “unseen machinations” – which Fried explains as invisibility or “defies depiction” as globalization.
  6. Severing viewers relationship through manipulating text as seen in Untitled XII (I) 1999 –  This is an image of what appears to be a page in a book, however Gursky has actually taken snippets from a fluid, known German text and rearranged/mixed them up so that even a German reader cannot decipher a clear message.  According to Fried, Gursky utilizes distancing and severing once again because the “picture cannot be read but merely viewed”. A viewer who cannot read German will become frustrated from being severed from the meaning while simultaneously a viewer who can read German will be “subtly but repeatedly alienated from it.”Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 8.43.31 PM
  7. Relation to Abstract Painting – Fried says this topic has been “exhaustively” discussed by critics/theorists referencing such artists like Jackson Pollock, his “all overness” of paint and Gursky’s all-overness of people (i.e. Tokyo Stock Exchange) Fried focuses more on abstract painting of the late 1940s and after – specifically high modernist color field painters such as Barnett Newman’s Onement I, 1948 (below, left) and Kenneth Noland’s Via Median,  1968 (below, right) making connections to Gursky’s Rhine II and Autobahn, Mettmann.  



  8. Restaurant, St Moritz 1991 – Fried includes this eighth point but it’s more a reference to an image that defies some of his usual features – instead Restaurant, St Moritz is not at a distance or hight vantage point, the glass is not being looked through but rather looked at. However Fried explains this image still employs distance and severance because of the blankness of the windows – the view cannot be seen, it is all light and white.  The outside world “doesn’t exist”  Also the subjects are per usual completely unaware and absorbed in their business. Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 10.03.46 PM


*Section Four

Luc Delahaye

Lastly, Fried more briefly focuses on French photojournalist turned fine art photographer, , Luc Delahaye.  Like Ruff and Gursky, Delahaye employs the motifs of , large scale, distance, withdrawl, alienation and uses a large-format camera.  which deviate from his past work of utilizing a photojournalist approach.  Delayhaye specifically uses “deliberate non-engagement”.  He himself says of his approach, “I am cold and detached, sufficiently invisible because sufficiently insignificant, and that is how I arrive at a full presence to things, and a simple and direct relation to the real. That idea, in my work, is central.”   His images are detailed which causes the viewer to approach close, much like Gursky, but adversely Delahaye does not direct the viewers gaze to any particular or important place in the scene.  He leaves that up to the viewer.   Delahaye wishes to be unseen, “my effort is to disappear, I introduce a distance that borders on indifference.” Images include from top to bottom below: U.S. Bombing on Taliban Positions, 2001, Jenin Refugee Camp, 2002, and Taliban, 2001.

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*Section 5 – Conclusion

Fried concludes Chapter Six by referencing Clement Greenberg’s remarks of an Edward Weston exhibition in 1946.  Greenberg wrote, “Photography is the most transparent of the art mediums devised or discovered by man.  It is probably for that reason that it proves so difficult to make the photograph transcend its almost inevitable function as document and act as work of art as well.”

Fried explains that transparent refers to the viewer’s experience and that because photography shows “depictive realism”, the viewer still tends to see through the surface forgetting its materiality and experiencing the depiction.  This is in direct contrast with painting where the viewer is always aware of the material surface, especially in paintings where the painter like Manet can explicitly make the material of the painting, the canvas, the paint, etc evident.  Fried continues, “Thus it might be said that one important function of the tableau form has been to counteract or compensate for the transparence of the photographic surface by keeping the viewer at a distance from the latter not just physically…but also imaginatively.”  


My thoughts –  For the most part I can get behind Fried’s argument of how the tableau form functions.  I can understand the distancing effect that takes place for the viewer.  I found it interesting that  when making connections to painting he repeatedly emphasized that the photographers didn’t specifically make these connections when they made the work – and is a reminder that a lot of art criticism is the interpretation of the writer and not necessarily the artists intentions.  I also found Fried’s argument of Gursky’s last image Restaurant, St Moritz to be a bit weak in that I wonder if Gursky was really trying to create that barrier.  I was not very familiar with any of these three photographers work so I found it very informative…especially in the case of Andreas Gursky whose North Korea work I was actually familiar with at the MoCP (mentioned earlier) but hadn’t realized it immediately.

Fried uses other writers to support his argument including and as mentioned, Jean-Francois Chevier (art critic & curator), Peter Gallassi (scholar & curator),  Clement Greenberg (art critic), and Regis Durand (art historian/critic).

Although in this chapter Fried focuses on these three photographers he also remarks that the tableau form can also be seen in the work of Wall, Bustamante (his Tableau series!), Truth, Hofer, and Demand, etc.

One of Gursky’s more recent works from North Korea Pyongyang II, 2007 :

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The Tableau Form