Afterimage, Vol. 43, no. 6


Transmediale: Festival for Art & Digital Culture

February 3–7, 2016

Andrea Liu

From Skype duets to an artist shaking hands with one thousand people and then taking “Microbiome Selfies” of the germs on his hands, from a performance of a flying drone to a brief history of the air-raid siren, from angst about maker culture being co-opted to complaints about the creeping complicity of the sharing economy with neoliberalism, Transmediale is an annual five-day festival in Berlin that approaches digital art, technology, and culture from a mind-bogglingly diverse panoply of conceptual, theoretical, and disciplinary starting points.

The twenty-ninth festival kicked off the first evening with the zany and delectably strange Superschool: Conversation Starter, a lecture-performance that attempted to transform an internet chat room into a performance. With an anything goes, off-kilter intelligentsia’s game show feel, complete with a gong and three “experts” seen only as dark silhouettes behind a screen, the performance centered around a cyborg-like man in a half stupor reciting fruitless Wikipedia searches in a drone-like computerized voice, as well as boisterous interventions from planted audience members…

Available online. Read here>

Essays & Features

Photographing in Ice: A Conversation with Julian Hibbard

David LaRocca

Julian Hibbard is a British photographer and author recognized for his compelling and enigmatic images that often maintain a palpable tension between the real and the imagined. He earned his bachelor of fine arts degree from Kingston University in London where he studied intermedia fine art. This interdisciplinary training led him toward his chosen career of photography, and his work has since been exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, Scotland, Chile, and at the prestigious Fundación Rosón Arte Contemporáneo in Spain. He is the author of The Noir A-Z: A Modern Abecedary as Imagined by Julian Hibbard (2009) and Schematics: A Love Story (2011)—two books that break with the conventions of photo books and explore different sorts of visual narratives. The Noir A-Z is an alphabet of twenty-six graphic incidents accompanying dominant terms from the noir universe. In the book, word and image come together in stories the viewer must tell—stories the reader discovers or invents as the relationships between word and image are discerned. In the subsequent publication—also a unique and experimental board book—he pairs found scientific line graphics with simple prose to form a narrative language in which life is mapped, charted, and diagrammed. Hibbard lives in New York City with his wife and son. This interview took place via email in the Fall of 2015…

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Hotel Michelangelo

Mary Bergstein

Every year, for many years, I stayed at the Hotel Michelangelo in Milan. It was an anonymous kind of place, a four-star “business hotel” near Stazione Centrale and just across the street from the bus service to Aeroporto Malpensa. I stayed there for a night at the end of every summer since the 1990s (it seems like longer), in transition from the pleasures and pains of Italian family life and art-historical travel, back to my working life in America. It was a redundant luxury, comfort American-style, clean, aggressively neutral, and modern, with the flags of several nations displayed on an array of modest (not to say pathetic) flagpoles outside. In the past, the Michelangelo typically came at the end of a day in emptied-out summertime Milan, a day of ritual visits. First to the Accademia di Brera and the astounding Montefeltro Altarpiece by Piero della Francesca. You know, it’s the one with the ostrich egg hanging above the Virgin from a pristine scallop-shell niche…

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Exhibition Reviews

Sant Khalsa: Confluence

Pasadena City College Center for the Arts
Pasadena, California
February 18–April 1, 2016

Jody Zellen

Confluence, by Southern California based artist, educator, and activist Sant Khalsa, was a modest and intelligently constructed exhibition of selected works spanning from 1989 to 2015. Centered around the theme of water and its relationship to the American West, the work on view comprised a personal investigation of the spiritual, economic, and environmental concerns around water as they pertain to the landscape that surrounds her.

Khalsa has turned her camera toward changes in the landscape over the years, poetically and systematically documenting the results of fires, floods, and drought. The sixteen black-and-white photographs from the larger series Paving Paradise (1990–2012) were shot along the ninety-six-mile length of the Santa Ana River (a river that flows from the San Bernardino mountains to the Pacific Ocean). The photographs trace the changes in the natural landscape due to both environmental and human conditions…

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The Light Inside: Wendy Snyder MacNeil, Photographs and Films

Ryerson Image Centre
January 20–April 10, 2016

Harriet Riches

Two figures pose against an old building; one sticks out its tongue, an aged hand reaching up to hold a devilish mask over its unseen face. This photograph, Williamsville, Vermont (1972), from the portfolio Unitarian Universalist Church, Williamsville VT (1967–72) by Wendy Snyder MacNeil, is a self-portrait with the artist’s grandmother. But at first glance, their diminutive presence against the abstracted geometry of the weatherboard reminded me of someone else: the careful composition and playful use of masking as a refusal to meet the gaze of her own camera brought to mind the childhood work of Francesca Woodman—one of Snyder MacNeil’s most famous students. 

Up until now, it is perhaps as an influential educator that this pioneer of experimental photographic portraiture is best known. Her teaching at Abbot Academy, Wellesley College, and later at Rhode Island School of Design had a profound impact not only on the development of individuals such as Woodman, Natalia Almada, Wendy Ewald, and Sylvia Wolf—but also the broader artistic direction of the institutions themselves…

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Spring Hurlbut: Airborne

Ryerson Image Centre
January 20–April 10, 2016

Jill Glessing

Death, that necessarily twinned companion to life, Sigmund Freud concluded, is the most compelling of all human drives: Death brings stasis to the constant agitation of life.1 In death, we can finally relax. Considered within contemporary Western culture, still pumped from postwar United States commercialization of youth culture, the notion seems absurd. Perceived as an incomprehensible violation of our autonomy, death is resisted and denied. We traffic in super foods and preserve our bodies for future awakening, when science finally solves nature’s fatal flaw.

Spring Hurlbut engages in no such fantasies. Instead, her explorations in sculpture, installation, photography, and video over the past three decades acknowledge the necessary demise of our ephemeral and fragile bodies. But, unlike Freud’s fatigued psychical bodies, those Hurlbut represents don’t settle into static sleep. Their vitality continues as visual, spiritual, or aesthetic presence…

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Electronic Superhighway (2016-1966)

Whitechapel Gallery
January 29, 2015–May 15, 2016

Harriet Riches

There is no escaping the gargantuan pair of women’s buttocks greeting the visitor entering Electronic Superhighway (2016– 1966). With a series of speech bubbles emerging from deep within, Olaf Breuning’s wall-scale photograph Text Butt (2015) places onto the naked female body a fragmented smartphone conversation made up of unrelated questions and nonsensical replies, in which she is quite literally speaking out of her ass.

Introducing the theme of the body’s changing relationship to technology that curator Omar Kholeif described as the starting point of the show’s exploration of art and the internet, this is just one of the (exclusively) female bodies chosen to map this connection. To the left sits Katja Novitskova’s Innate Disposition 2 (2012), a large cutout print of a small furry animal, nestled in a pair of manicured women’s hands. To the right, in James Bridle’s Homo Sacer (2014), a projected holographic image of a smiling woman hovers behind a wooden desk. Reminiscent of the kind of hologram appearing in bureaucratic spaces such as airports and government buildings to provide depersonalized instructions, she is a virtual receptionist who flickers into life as each gallery-goer walks through the door…

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Laura Poitras: Astro Noise

Whitney Museum of American Art
New York City
February 5–May 1, 2016

Almudena Escobar López

Astro Noise is the first solo exhibition worldwide of the work of documentary filmmaker and political activist Laura Poitras. It is her first attempt to translate her research about post-9/11 anxieties into the context of an installation in order to develop a more direct interaction with audiences.

Astro Noise is the name of the first encrypted file containing evidence of mass surveillance that former CIA employee and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden shared with Poitras in 2013. It also refers to the muffled disturbance of leftover thermal radiation that is believed to have dispersed in the universe in the form of aimless microwaves after the Big Bang. The Snowden leaks had a similar retroactive effect, producing a leftover noise that is still echoing politically and socially. In this exhibition, Poitras attempts to construct a critical space to reflect on what happened, extending its ethical implications. The itinerary commences with the ANARCHIST series (2016), large-scale blown-up photographic images from the Snowden archive printed on huge aluminum sheets…

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Mark Lewis: Invention

The Power Plant
September 26, 2015–January 3, 2016

Jill Glessing

Quickening the pulse of modernizing Europe in the nineteenth century were two new visual technologies: photography and cinema. Photography, despite its unique ability to record the real world, adopted the aesthetic conventions and fictive content of the medium that birthed it—painting. But when the photographic frame flickered into time, as cinema, connections to that earlier pictorial tradition were further strained. How can pictorial composition, reliant on stasis, exist in a medium that won’t be still?

This question moves slowly, almost imperceptibly, across the screens of Mark Lewis’s latest film projections, hesitating on a febrile threshold between stasis and movement, between fictive and real. This concern sits easily within Lewis’s ongoing considerations of the lineage, materiality, and cultural significance of moving image media…

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Warhol By the Book

The Morgan Library & Museum
New York City
February 5–May 15, 2016

Mary Gregory

Andy Warhol, whose work was inspiration to some and provocation to others, was an author and a bookmaker, as well as an iconic artist. His bibliophilic nature is being explored in Warhol By the Book at the Morgan Library & Museum through May 15. Some one hundred and forty objects represent more than eighty Warhol publications, as well as dozens of projects that were either unique or never made it to print. Through them, one gains a renewed sense of the energy and drive of one of the twentieth century’s most renowned artists, as well as a perhaps previously unknown understanding of the breadth of his vision and sensibility.

Curator Sheelagh Bevan described Warhol’s illustration work as “incredibly energetic, full of frivolity and pastel colors, delightful and alive.”1 A sense of wit and play suffuses many of the works, but so does a serious involvement with literature. Bevan, who coorganized the show with the Warhol Museum, where a different version ran,2 highlights Warhol’s bookish side. He wasn’t solely making artists’ books, though he created some of the most innovative and striking. Across several decades, he was developing ideas with poets, collaborating with musicians, paying homage to authors, writing texts of his own, spoofing cookbooks, making books for children, and writing his own experimental novel…

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Michael Riedel

David Zwirner Gallery
New York City
February 27–March 25, 2016

Megan N. Liberty

Michael Riedel is deeply engaged with modes of distribution within the art world. Reproduction and recycling are central to his practice. Despite the rise in online media, art institutions continue to print fliers and exhibition posters as well as produce expensive glossy catalogs with full-color reproductions and scholarly essays. In the past, Riedel used his own work as his source material, recycling previous exhibition posters to make new paintings, posters, and books, which were then redistributed. In the book Michael Riedel: Poster—Painting—Presentation (2016), published to accompany his most recent exhibition at David Zwirner Gallery, curator Tina Kukielski discusses the relationship between the poster and the art event: “On the one hand, you had to be there. On the other hand, the strategies for the mass dissemination taking place after the fact were as much part of the art experience.” The poster is as much a product of the event as it is a part of its process.

Riedel applied a similar strategy to investigate digital modes of distribution, searching for his name on art-related websites and then using the HTML code behind the sites to create new works and posters, continuing the cycle of reuse and reproduction. Not content to merely continue the sequence of replication via both print and digital means, he instead blurs the lines between these methods…

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Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige: I Must First Apologize…

MIT List Visual Arts Center
Cambridge, Massachusetts
February 19–April 17, 2016

Christian Whitworth

When opening a spam email, one is subject to the manipulation of its message. Whether intrigued, repulsed, or disinterested, the narrative that has been formed for our susceptibility is often more complex; a parallel history of scamming informs its modern practice, in which not only geo- and sociopolitical relations but digitization blur the distinction between good and evil intentions. The modern practice of scamming is situated within an imaginary realm, where blind faith facilitates an exchange between sender and receiver.

Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige’s I Must First Apologize… at the MIT List Visual Arts Center presented an investigation into nearly four thousand scam emails collected over a seventeen-year period. The multimedia exhibition sought to illustrate the complexity of scamming on a global scale. The numerous emails that monopolize our junk folders each present a problem—a sick and dying individual, a person in political conflict—as an opportunity to make massive amounts of money. The premise is simple, yet the inner workings sociologically complex. For the “victim,” there is no return on investment…

Book Reviews

The Lost Rolls 1988–2012

By Ron Haviv, edited by Robert Peacock
Blurb, 2015
unpaginated/$45.00 (hb)

Rachel Somerstein

For every news photograph published to illustrate or document an event, countless others never make it to print. For his latest book, The Lost Rolls 1988–2012 (2015), the photojournalist Ron Haviv turned to his archive of undeveloped film— pictures that, over more than twenty years of his three-decade-long career, never made it off the roll. This was a brave choice, not least given that the photographer has a substantial record of widely circulated, awardwinning photojournalism, particularly of sites of conflict and postconflict, that he might have mined instead. A cofounder of the VII Photo Agency, Haviv may be best known for his work on the 1990s Balkan Wars and their aftermath, which he spent a decade documenting…

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Visual Journeys Through Wordless Narratives: An International Inquiry with Immigrant Children and The Arrival

Edited by Evelyn Arizpe, Teresa Colomer, and Carmen Martínez-Roldán
Bloomsbury Academic, 2015
288 pp./$140.00 (hb)

Jason Dehart

In Visual Journeys Through Wordless Narratives, edited by Evelyn Arizpe, Teresa Colomer, and Carmen Martínez-Roldán, the wordless picture book is presented as a bridge for stimulating literacy experiences among pre-K to 8th grade immigrant children. Visual narratives can not only help language teachers reach around linguistic barriers, but can also engage young readers. Because of the nature of a picture book or graphic novel, the authors contend that this medium can connect multiple genres as well as cultures, and touch on a range of topics, including literary theory and semiotics. 

The editors include their research questions, hypotheses, and descriptions of the population and geography of their study, which took place in Glasgow, Scotland; Barcelona, Spain; and Arizona. Part 1 of the text covers the work of the study, Part 2 explores analysis of the findings, and Part 3 gives implications for pedagogy…

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On Stage: The Theatrical Dimension of Video Image

By Mathilde Roman
Intellect, 2016
107 pp./$36.00 (sb)

Romy Hosford

In a time when performance in front of the camera is ubiquitous and the line between theater and reality is blurring, where six-second videos on Vine pervade our social consciousness and create overnight celebrities, a book like On Stage: The Theatrical Dimension of Video Image should be on every media artist’s reading list.

Distilling the history of video installation through the lens of theatrical performance, this title explores the parallel dialogue between these two mediums…

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Media Received

Click here for our full Media Received Listings

Report: Transmediale: Festival for ARt & Digital Culture

Read this report

Video: Anxious to Secure (2016) by Sophie Hoyle

View this video

Portfolio: Istanbul Ghettoes, by Stephanie Paine and Kevin Yildirim

View this portfolio


Current Issue, Vol. 45, no. 5

Xilunguine by Paul Castro

Vol. 45, no.4

Shrukk (Knot) by Mudabbir Ahmad Tak


Image Text Ithaca Symposium

Film as Verb: Documentary Imperfection in the Post-Factual Era by Gabrielle McNally

Speculations and Inquiries on New Participatory Documentary Environments

Toward a Theory of Participatory New Media Documentary

Documentary Untethered, Documentary Becoming

Collaborative Documentary Practice: Histories, Theories, Practices


Silos by Andria Hickey and Matthew Chasney

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