Afterimage Vol. 43, no. 4

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Reports

14th Istanbul Biennial

Istanbul, Turkey
September 5– November 1, 2015

Sabrina DeTurk

The 14th Istanbul Biennial, SALTWATER: A Theory of Thought Forms, curated (or, to use her term, “drafted”) by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, was a sprawling affair, requiring time, patience, and a good map to navigate effectively. The dispersal of artworks across far-flung areas of the city, including on both sides of the Bosphorus as well as on islands in the Sea of Marmara, was engineered by Chistov- Bakargiev, who wrote in the Biennial guide, “When you visit the 14th Istanbul Biennial, you will spend quite a bit of time on salt water. There is a slowing down of the experience of art due to the travel between venues, especially on ferries.” Despite the challenges presented by the diverse locations, the visitor who made the effort to attend even a subset of the Biennial’s thirty- six exhibition sites was rewarded with a rich array of work from two hundred artists and artist collectives…

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Architectures in Motion

Berlin
September  9–27, 2015

Steven Yates

Participants from film academia and associated media studies, along with filmmakers, came together for a oneday symposium entitled Architectures in Motion, during the documentary film season of the same name, organized by DOKU.ARTS1 and held at the Zeughauskino of the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin. The symposium, set against the backdrop of urban planning over the last 150 years, looked at architectural anthropology in tandem with the simultaneous growth of the modern city, mass media, and psychology. Papers presented included “What the Architectural Avant-Garde Learned from Film: The Case of Diller Scofido + Renfro,” “How architecture mirrors cinema by being a collective process,” “Filming Ground Zero: Politics and Reconstruction,” and “Filming Architecture, or How Can One Reconcile the Extraordinary Pleasure, the Monumental Effect of Architecture, with the Love of Detail, the Subtle Effect of Cinema?”

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53rd New York Film Festival’s Projections

New York City
October 2–4, 2015

Tanner Tafelski

Formerly named Views from the Avant-Garde, the New York Film Festival’s (NYFF) experimental sidebar, Projections, showcased new works from old mainstays at the festival (Ben Rivers, Ben Russell, Lewis Klahr, and Jodie Mack) as well as those making their appearance in the festival for the first time (Isiah Medina, Nicolás Pereda, Jon Rafman, and Cécile B. Evans). While last year’s Projections featured thirteen programs made up of sixty-three films and videos, the bounty of art was smaller this year, with fifty-four titles screened across fourteen programs. Despite the reduction, the essential NYFF sidebar still contained a wealth of work to discover. Amid the abundance was a set of films and videos in which artists planted figures in landscapes, mapped out domestic spaces, or opened portals and paths to that labyrinthine maze, the internet….

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Essays & Features

Invisible Participation: The Hologram Protest in Spain

Almundena Escobar López

Is it possible to organize a demonstration without actual people? Rosalyn Deutsche describes how, from the standpoint of democracy, the space of politics is “a discursively constructed site” in which laws delimit its “proper usage.”1 Laws dictate the structure of public space, positioning the body and controlling its relation to the political community. In Spain, where representative democracy is only thirty-seven years old, the government has been containing social dissidents by means of strategic laws with the noble excuse of protecting citizens’ security. In 2015, after the economic crisis of 2008 reawakened the old phantoms of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship, activists organized a protest with holographic projections of protestors at the doors of the Parliament…

Holograms for Freedom, by No Somos Delito

They Come to Us without a Word: Joan Jonas 2015

Lucy Bowditch

Despite the positive reviews of Joan Jonas’s installation They Come to Us without a Word at the 2015 Venice Biennale, some visitors with whom I spoke felt bombarded with information or perceived the installation as fragmented. First, it is worth exploring this resistance to the acclaimed multimedia installation to understand the reasons Jonas should be celebrated. In fact, it is one way to understand the work of an artist who states, “Don’t try to understand my work, just experience it.” Second, Jonas’s request “to just experience” is fine if one is passing through the installation, but not an option if one is writing an essay about the work and not parallel to it, as is the tendency in the fine catalog essays accompanying the exhibition, which were written before the authors could see the completed installation…

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Envisioning a Culture of Consent: A Conversation with FORCE

Liz Flyntz

FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture is a collective co-directed by artist/activists Hannah Brancato and Rebecca Nagle. FORCE was formed in Baltimore in 2010 and today organizes actions and events in the Baltimore/DC area, in public spaces, and on college campuses around the country. FORCE uses the internet as an extension of the public space in which art can be made or presented, as a communication broadcast tool in opposition to mainstream media, and as a forum for suggesting alternative, positive visions of sex, gender, and consent in culture.

I spoke to Hannah Brancato at FORCE’s temporary headquarters and studio, housed in the labyrinthine corridors of Area 405, a former factory turned artist studio warren, on September 18, 2015. FORCE had recently moved into an enormous space in the building, and their Monument Quilt (2013–present) production tables, literature, and other materials staked out a central area that was surrounded by the hulking shapes of old machinery and furniture in storage around them. I met with Hannah at a folding table, where she was seated on a folding chair, surrounded by sewing machines, storage bins holding fabric, and literature about sexual assault and rape. We discussed several projects produced by FORCE since the group’s inception, as well as artistic influences and some works-in-progress…

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Exhibition Reviews

¡Presente! The Young Lords in New York

The Bronx Museum of the Arts
July 2–October 18, 2015

Katja Rivera

As with any exhibition that attempts to cover a movement— artistic, political, or otherwise—the challenge lies in telling its multiple histories. This past summer, the Bronx Museum of the Arts organized an artistic and cultural exhibition of the Young Lords Organization, the Puerto Rican nationalist group made up of political activists and community organizers. One way the museum tackled the multifaceted aspects of the organization was by spanning the exhibition across three institutions: the Bronx Museum of the Arts, El Museo del Barrio, and Loisaida, Inc. The venues had diverging but overlapping content, and were thus able to focus on the relationship of the Young Lords to the Bronx, East Harlem, and the Lower East Side, respectively. ¡Presente! The Young Lords in New York was a well-researched, engaging, and much-needed presentation that situated the group within a broader historical context. Through photographs, prints, ephemera, and archival material, the exhibition illuminated how the Young Lords successfully harnessed the power of media, worked across organizations, and presented themselves as a strong, unified coalition…

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Jaye Rhee

Picker Art Gallery, Colgate University
Hamilton, New York
September 17, 2015–January 3, 2015

Alisia Chase

Had I not read Jaye Rhee’s biography beforehand, I would have assumed this multimedia artist was a graduate of the famed Black Mountain College in Asheville, North Carolina, where some of the most conceptually creative innovators of the twentieth century (John Cage, Merce Cunningham, and Robert Rauschenberg among them) taught and studied. It turns out Rhee was born in 1973, some sixteen years after Black Mountain closed its doors, but the experimental college’s radical embrace of interdisciplinary collaboration lives on in her work. Like Cage, who believed that “everything we do is music”; Cunningham, who thought of “dance as a transformation of life itself”; and Rauschenberg, who wanted to create in the space “between art and life,” Rhee recognizes that art and life are inseparable. As she stated in a 2013 interview, “I would like to raise questions about . . . art as a momentary gift, like life. When your attention is immersed in the ‘present,’ even in just a fleeting moment, you can be aware of the gift of life…”

Chaffee arranged to have free admission every Sunday for the length of the exhibition “in honor of the hardworking people” of Western New York. This generosity was in evidence throughout the exhibition: in the space given to each artwork, in the absence of lengthy wall text, and in the two free “handouts” that accompanied the show—Chaffee’s newsprint guide and Fred Lonidier’s poster…

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Transmissions: Art in Eastern Europe and Latin America, 1960—1980

The Museum of Modern Art
New York City
September 5, 2015–January 3, 2016

Alexandra Alisauskas

The Museum of Modern Art’s (MoMA) exhibition Transmissions: Art in Eastern Europe and Latin America, 1960–1980 is not, as its title seems to imply, about cross-cultural artistic activities and networking between its two titular regions. Sustained artistic contact between the two regions was rare during the 1960s and ’70s, one notable exception being an international mail art network that the exhibition briefly explores. Instead, Transmissions investigates parallel but largely separate practices of artistic production and networking in the two regions during this period, beginning from shared conditions of repression between various Eastern European and Latin American countries during the height of the Cold War…

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Paul Graham: The Whiteness of the Whale

Pier 24 Photography
San Francisco
August 1, 2015–February 29, 2016

Stephanie Amon

This exhibition collects the informal American trilogy by New York-based British photographer Paul Graham. In the snowy amnesia of American Night (1998–2002), the electrifying disorientation of a shimmer of possibility (2004–06), and the dark mnemonic humor of The Present (2009–11), flickers a symptomatology of American vision. This exhibition’s contemporary photographs “of nothing” are of the United States, as we cannot clearly see it: as a settler society, racist, and therefore abject. It was the lure of the logo that above all things appalled me.

In Herman Melville’s original: “It was the whiteness of the whale that above all things appalled me.” Graham titled the exhibition after a selection from Melville’s Moby-Dick (1851), reproduced in an exhibition catalog co-published by MACK and Pier 24. The grasping horror of the novel’s Chapter Forty-two complements the harrowing gleam of American Night’s “white pictures,” overexposed to the edge of legibility. Lone pedestrians in the middle distance appear chillingly misplaced, out in the open under an unforgiving blaze. In Man in Car Park, Memphis (2000), Graham’s composition imbues a nondescript parking lot with an eerie emptiness, intimidating the viewer with the ineluctable pavement of nature. A Saia truck in the distance resuscitates my hours inside the fallow and irrigated emerald expanse of the California drought, where these freighters are hazy with the dust of hundreds of miles; in my branded reverie, the man is easily forsaken…

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Luis Gonzalez Palma: Intangible Constellations

Fundación Telefónica
Madrid
June 11,–October 18, 2015

Not Yet: On the Reinvention of Documentary and the Critique of Modernism

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Madrid
February 11–July 13, 2015

Jill Glessing

Every summer many of Madrid’s museums and galleries host PHotoEspaña exhibitions. Each year the International Festival of Photography and the Visual Arts, produced by the Madrid-based arts and publishing hub La Fábrica, organizes an ever-expanding presentation of artists and venues. The theme around which many of the sixty-nine exhibitions circulated this year was “Latin American Photography.”

It is timely for Spain to consider the region so indelibly marked by Iberian colonialism and its pursuit of riches. With its faltering economy today, Spain is again casting its gaze toward Latin America for joint ventures and financial stimulus. But within Spain there is also growing cognizance of its destructive colonizing past, evidenced this year by regional rejections of annual Columbus Day celebrations…

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Petra Cortright: Niki, Lucy, Lola, Viola

Depart Foundation
Los Angeles
July 9–September 19, 2015

Ben Jones X 8

Ace Gallery
Beverly Hills
July 11–September 30, 2015

Casey Reas: Linear Perspective

Charlie James Gallery
Los Angeles
September 5–October 17, 2015

Jody Zellen

For the post-internet generation, using appropriated content is commonplace. The proliferation of images, sounds, texts, and fashions available online has come to be regarded as the subject matter of daily life and always there for reuse. In an interview with Marisa Olson for Rhizome.org, Christiane Paul remarked on the practice of many artists working in the digital medium:

They may create online projects but they might also do object-based art, paintings or sculptures that are deeply informed by or use elements of the net or its “language,” which is what the term postinternet tries to capture. . . . (Sadly I now frequently see postinternet used as a catchy term for art made by anyone born roughly after 1985 or for a sensibility characterized by an uncomplicated reverence for fame and success.)

Post-internet has in many ways become a kind of catch-all phrase for artists working in the digital realm, or making mixedmedia works from appropriated sources. This broad use of the term pushes it past the breaking point, where it becomes so openended as to be meaningless. A better definition of post-internet art is that it not only uses the internet as a point of departure, but that it is technology (software/computer) dependent…

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Wang Qingsong

Beetles+Huxley
London
September 22–October 24, 2015

Harriet Riches

China was rarely out of the headlines in the closing week of Wang Qingsong’s first solo show in London, at Beetles+Huxley in Mayfair. With the capital playing host to the first state visit of President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan, as I made my way to the gallery I was caught up in a celebratory parade: moving slowly down the Mall, tourists and residents waved red flags, while activist and pro-Tibet campaigners protested the visiting nation’s treatment of human rights.

The timing was sheer coincidence, but one that stuck in my mind as the pomp and pageantry of the occasion chimed with the visual noise, intricate detail, and vibrant colors so immediately apparent in Qingsong’s highly staged, large-scale photographs. Having trained as a painter, Qingsong moved into photography in the 1990s, deliberately using a modern medium better suited to conveying the speed and scale of change that Chinese society was undergoing—a dramatic period of historical change that he describes in the accompanying video Behind the Scenes with Wang Qingsong (2015) as one in which Chinese “society is expanding, and so are people’s hopes…”

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Book Reviews

Seeing Power: Art and Activism in the 21st Century

By Nato Thompson
Melville House, 2015
165 pp./$20.00 (hb)

Marc James Léger

Anyone who has been involved in or has researched activist art in the past two decades is likely to be familiar with the work of Nato Thompson. As assistant curator at MASS MoCA, he co-edited, with Gregory Sholette, the catalog for the groundbreaking exhibition The Interventionists: Art in the Social Sphere (2004–05), and as the chief curator of Creative Time, he edited the massive anthology Living as Form: Socially Engaged Art from 1991–2011 (2012). Whereas these previous books presented short essays by Thompson, this new book-length text provides readers with a better appreciation of the thoughts of one of the best-known and most whimsical activist curators. Seeing Power is a finely woven and detailed argument on the issues defining activist art today. With no endnotes, no bibliography, and no image captions, the book is a pleasant, user-friendly experience that discusses the work of leading socially engaged artists, including REPOhistory, W.A.G.E. (Working Artists and the Growing Economy), Thomas Hirschhorn, Tania Bruguera, Paul Chan, WochenKlausur, Yomango, William Pope.L, Rick Lowe, Laurie Jo Reynolds, Center for Land Use Interpretation, and Trevor Paglen…

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Films and Games: Interactions

Edited by Eva Lenhardt and Andreas Rauscher
Deutsches Filmmuseum, 2015
255 pp./$38.00 (hb)

Trent Hergenradar

Claudia Dillmann notes in her foreword to Films and Games: Interactions that this pair is “the most talked about and most dynamic media of the moving image” today, not to mention that each is its own multi-billion dollar industry. While both forms of media have enjoyed a meteoric ascent among popular audiences, they have each experienced struggles to gain widespread recognition among writers and scholars as texts worthy of intellectual attention. The establishment of film studies departments within an academic field dedicated to critical analysis of cinema helped put the question to rest for that medium in the 1960s, and we have long been accustomed to film criticism being part and parcel of our daily lives, first in newspapers, then on television, and now on websites and in YouTube videos…

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Feminist Surveillance Studies

Edited by Rachel E. Dubrofsky and Shoshana Amielle Magnet
Duke University Press, 2015
304 pp./$25.95 (sb)

Stephanie Amon

In what regard does our postracial, postfeminist, postcolonial, digital age, so to doublespeak, hold the endemic violence of American society? This collection begins with a profound reversal: while surveillance is typically thought of as a strategy of the state, usually in the form of a modern intelligence bureaucracy, Andrea Smith argues that “an anticolonial feminist analysis demonstrates that the problem is instead the state itself as surveillance strategy” (25). Smith urges the reassessment of surveillance as “a structure, not an event,” a conceptual redress that foregrounds the subjugation of knowledge rather than a mythology of omnipotence…

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The Magic World of Orson Welles: Centennial Anniversary

By James Naremore
University of Illinois Press, 2015
340 pp./$95.00 (hb), $20.00 (sb)

Matthew Moore

In celebration of Orson Welles’s centenary this year, several excellent books have emerged to further articulate the crucial impact of Welles on film, history, and film history. Works such as Marguerite Rippy’s Orson Welles and the Unfinished RKO Projects: A Postmodern Perspective (2009), Alberto Anile’s Orson Welles in Italy (2013), Patrick McGilligan’s Young Orson: The Years of Luck and Genius on the Path to Citizen Kane (2015), and Josh Karp’s Orson Welles’s Last Movie: The Making of The Other Side of the Wind (2015) seem timed to ride (or perpetuate) this wave into a new century of Welles scholarship…

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Profanations

By Giorgio Agamben
Zone Books, 2015
99 pp./$26.95 (hb), $18.95 (sb)

Daniel Tutt

Composed of ten short essays, Profanations is arguably the most far-reaching introduction to Agamben’s project of political philosophy yet published. With essays touching on the artistic definition of genius as an inner power that manages the excess of one’s ego, to an apocalyptic reading of the proletariat as half-formed creatures who inhabit the coming kingdom, to short readings of psychoanalysis and desire, this newly published paperback (originally published in hardback in 2007) is an accessible entry point for artists, philosophers, and others interested in Agamben’s thought….

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Media Received

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From the Issue

Portfolio: Places, by elementWo

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Video: Holograms for Freedom, by No Somos Delito

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