Afterimage Vol 44, no. 4

Features and Essays

Images of Images: Notes on Anne Collier’s and Kotama Bouabane’s photo practices

Noa Bronstein

Photography, since its very beginning, has been self-reflexive, with photos and cameras themselves becoming subject matter for further forays into imagemaking. Recent works by Anne Collier (b. Los Angeles, lives in New York) and Kotama Bouabane (b. Pakse, Laos; lives in Toronto) recall this history while making visible the ways in which culture and gender are appropriated and commodified within photography. In particular, Collier and Bouabane make visual inquiries into the dissemination of ubiquitous photographic instruments of marketing, production, and ultimately consumerism. Through the construction, circulation, and recontextualization of photographic advertisements and manuals, both artists challenge…

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Art, Politics, and Interdisciplinary Collaboration: A Conversation with Jeff Lieberman

Jacquelyn Davis

Jeff Lieberman is an American interdisciplinary artist basedin Boston with four degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): two Bachelor of Science degrees (in physics and mathematics), and two Master’s degrees (in mechanical engineering and media arts and sciences, with a special interest in robotics). For a brief stint (2008–09), he was the host of the Discovery Channel’s Time Warp, which offered slow-motion footage of events that could never be seen with the naked eye, often revealing surprising aspects of reality. Artistically, Lieberman is best known for his kinetic sculptures and mechanical installations—some of which have been funded by the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. He is also an acoustic/electronic musician and professional photographer with a personal interest in spirituality and meditation as vehicles to alleviate suffering. Lieberman has a history of collaborating with others across the inventive spectrum, and he is a notable public speaker and educator. This conversation took place via email November 1–10, 2016.

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Dangerous Dakini: Monet Clark’s Bunny Girl and Other Precarious Performance Videos

Jillian St. Jacques

No images are visible during the opening sequence of Bunny Girl (2016), by California performance/video artist Monet Clark. Instead, Clark provides the most basic of sounds; a steady, syncopated clip-clop and the swish of fabric, sandy and hollow, like a lone Appaloosa trotting up a gulch in a Howard Hawks western. Riding over the black screen are credits, simple and white, and Clark leaves us with these for a beat. Then it’s a hard cut to a bright, sunny exterior, the shoulder of a highway in the High Sierras, and we can finally see who’s been making all the racket: it’s Bunny Girl, teetering down a road, tackled-up in white lingerie, fishnet stockings, pink stiletto heels, the classic bunny drill. But something about Bunny Girl’s context is off. Distinct alterations affect her traditional bunny attire: her black fishnets have a rip; her stiletto heels, one size too large, wobble precariously on the gravel of the emergency lane; her trademark bunny ears aren’t perky and upright— they’re flopped down, clinging close to her face, reminiscent of those lop-eared bunnies at the Benton County Fair. Like Donny Kerabatsos in The Big Lebowski (1998, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen), this manifestation of Bunny Girl is distinctly out of her element…

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What Do You Notice in People and Why?: Thoughts on the Work of Rosalind Fox Solomon

Chelsea Spengemann

A black-and-white photograph, about thirty inches square, pinned to the wall near the entrance of Rosalind
Fox Solomon’s exhibition Got to Go at Bruce Silverstein Gallery in New York City (February 25–April 16, 2016), depicts a young boy holding an older woman’s bare breasts. The woman in the image looks down at him with a smile, arms calmly at her side, shoulders back. Six other figures of all ages are also pictured (some faces just barely visible), crowded around the woman and the boy. Their observance of this gentle, lighthearted interaction mirrors that of the unseen photographer, and, ultimately, of the viewer. All of the figures in the image, Karoo, South Africa, 1990, are black, wear only a piece of fabric around each of their waists, and stand outside a grass structure.

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Art-as-Activism and Public Discourse: A Conversation with Diane Bush

David LaRocca

Diane Bush is an American photographer who has lived and worked in Buffalo and London, and currently resides in Las Vegas, where she has served as curator of exhibits for Clark County. She is the recipient of awards and grants from institutions such as Kodak, Nikon, Ilford, Polaroid, the Royal Photographic Society, Yorkshire Arts Association, Women in Photography, and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, as well as a fellowship from the Nevada Arts Council. In 2008 she was nominated for a USA Artist fellowship. Her work has been published and exhibited internationally, and she is the author of the monoprint (2006). This conversation began in person in Buffalo in June 2016 and continued via email through the fall.

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Exhibition Reviews

Blackness in Abstraction

Pace Gallery
New York City
June 22–August 19, 2016

Kim Bobier

“What is it that a black object does?” asks curator Adrienne Edwards in the catalog for her exhibition Blackness in Abstraction, which investigated this question. At Pace Gallery, Edwards staged “black as a material, a method, a mode, and/or a way of being in the world” with installation, painting, photography, sculpture, and video, dating from the 1940s to the present. Since these predominately black works skirted overt messages and images, discerning how they act was an exercise in patience. To take a swift walk through would have been to miss the show. Instead, abstract expressionist Norman Lewis’s black paintings (1946–77), though not included, provide an enticing comparison. Jorge Daniel Veneciano has linked Lewis’s nonfigurative tableaux to the Greek myth of Orpheus.

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Joey Holder: Ophiux

Wysing Arts Centre
Cambridge, UK
September 25-November 20, 2016

Harriet Riches

Likened by the artist in an accompanying interview to a scientific lab/medical room, the installation of Joey Holder’s Ophiux at Wysing Arts Centre welcomed visitors into an uncanny futuristic world. The floor was bright white rubber, necessitating blue plastic shoe covers on entrance that muffled the sound of footsteps. Voices were muted, adding an air of hushed reverence to an environment that felt part spaceship, part surgical theater.

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Feminism is Politics!

Pratt Manhattan Gallery
New York City
September 28–November 23, 2016

Alisia Chase

This November, a woman from a major political party was on the American presidential ballot for the first time in history, and pundits predicted that the ultimate glass ceiling would finally shatter. In the words of this candidate’s supporters, we would become a “pantsuit nation.” During the several weeks prior to this unprecedented election, two news items featuring female protesters showed up in my Facebook feed. One occurred in Rhode Island, where more than three hundred women marched in solidarity for the right to wear yoga pants. The other culminated in Jerusalem, after more than 3,000 Israeli and Palestinian women marched for two weeks in solidarity for peace in the Middle East. The disparity between these two marches was so extreme I felt like I was being punked. A common slogan of second-wave feminists was “The personal is political!”—a catchphrase meant to underscore how a woman’s daily life is shaped by the institutions that govern her, and I’m sure there must be a clever cultural theorist out there who could argue that wearing yoga pants is a step toward radicalization.

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Rineke Dijkstra: Rehearsals

Milwaukee Art Museum
September 9, 2016–January 2, 2017

Janina Ciezadlo

When Gianfranco Rosi, director of Fuocoammare (Fire at Sea, 2016) explains, “My goal is not to deliver a message or defend a theory. The goal of my film is not to inform. We are not lacking data, but they crush our perception and our emotions concerning the real,” he might be speaking for Rineke Dijkstra. All of Dijkstra’s work to date reveals that she turned from commercial photography toward portraits, in her own words, in order to produce photographs with something more “substantial.” Sheoffers viewers an opportunity to sharpen our perceptions and our emotions with two absorbing videos presented in the exhibition Rehearsals (created in 2014 for Manifesta 10: the European Biennial of Contemporary Art in Russia), and shown recently, for the first time in the United States, at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

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A Matter of Memory: Photography as Object in the Digital Age

George Eastman Museum
Rochester, New York
October 22, 2016–January 29, 2017

Catherine Zuromskis

Photography is a substantial medium. From the technological apparatuses and chemical processes that produce it to the accumulation of metal, glass, plastic, paper, fabric, leather, and other supports that preserve the photographic trace for posterity, photography has always had a haptic, material presence. Moreover, as an inde xical medium, photography also exists to preserve a physical imprint (via reflected light) of the people, places, and things it represents. Despite photography’s embeddedness within the realm of the concrete, the tangible, and the corporeal, however, critics and historians have routinely sidestepped or marginalized the materiality of the photographic image. Perhaps because of photography’s singular ability to offer a window into another time and place, many of the most foundational thinkers on photography do not see the window for the view. When they do address the photograph itself as an object with physical presence, scholars have imagined that physical presence as ephemeral, invisible, or barely there. In the nineteenth century, despite the comparative weightiness of the daguerreotypes, tintypes, and ambrotypes that were common in his day, Oliver Wendell Holmes described photography as a way to fix in time the “evanescent films” emitted by bodies in space, comparing the image to a reflection in a pool of water.

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Diane Arbus: In the Beginning

Met Breuer, Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York City
July 12–November 27, 2016

Wendy Horwitz

A black-and-white photograph of a woman in a pillbox hat and fur coat reflects an unmistakable era: the raised eyebrow, slightly parted dark-glossed lips—an insouciant look my mother and her childhood friends and we baby boomers practiced in our mirrors, imitating mid-twentieth-century movie stars. Yet this photo, one of more than a hundred in a recent exhibition of Diane Arbus’s early work (1956–62) at the Met Breuer, is light-years from the silver screen.

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John Akomfrah: Vertigo Sea

Design Exchange / Nuit Blanche Toronto
October 1, 2016

Jill Glessing

Ghanaian-born and self-described “Afro-Brit” artist and filmmaker John Akomfrah’s recent three-channel video installation, Vertigo Sea (2015), continues topics and formal approaches developed first within the Black Audio Film Collective, cofounded by Akomfrah in 1982, and later, Smoking Dogs Films. His first film, Handsworth Songs (1986), a response to the 1985 race riots in Birmingham, UK, deployed montage and the archive to explore postcolonial identity and the African diaspora. Nearly thirty years later, Vertigo Sea retains those strategies, but through highly sophisticated forms and with themes expanded, deepened, and updated to address the critical conditions of migration and race relations today.

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Book Reviews

Sara Davidmann’s Ken. To be destroyed

Schilt Publishing, 2016
130 pp./$60.00 (hb)

Suzanne E. Szucs

Throughout its history, photography has sat at the intersection of truth and fiction. That photographic images are
based on reality is incontrovertible. That things might not be as they seem to appear is equally true. It is fair to say that the ability of photography to capture the real world helped to shape the twentieth century into one that would
become almost obsessed with truth and accuracy, until interrupted by the digital revolution. Ironically, the digital medium, which is able to capture the world with the utmost of fidelity, has also been so easy to alter that it reveals that image manipulation has been present throughout photography’s short history. This ability of photography to show, but somehow not reveal, while emphasizing surface over depth, is instrumental to Sara Davidmann’s project Ken. To be destroyed (2013–15).

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Katarzyna Kosmala and Miguel Imas’s Precarious Spaces:
The Arts, Social and Organizational Change

Intellect, 2016
249 pp./$86.00 (hb)

Alix Camacho Vargas

Precarious Spaces: The Arts, Social and Organizational Change contributes to discussions about the power of
art-informed interventions and artistic projects and how these seek to boost social and community transformations on different scales. Editors Katarzyna Kosmala and Miguel Imas focus on examples from socially and economically unstable and marginalized spaces, mainly in South America. This book fills significant gaps in both the arts and social sciences literatures in English concerning art-informed interventions in the Global South.

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Adam Bell and Charles H. Traub’s Vision Anew:
The Lens and Screen Arts

University of California Press, 2015
292 pp./$34.95 (sb)

Jay Murphy

Vision Anew: The Lens and Screen Arts was published before the November 8, 2016, United States electoral victory of Donald Trump, itself a media event, but after a profusion of other phenomena— including “post-internet” art; the exponential growth of Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Google+ (advent of both ever-cheaper digital photo technologies and augmented reality); the increased availability of 3-D printing; the revelation of unprecedented spying and surveillance technologies by the National Security Agency; the widespread use of drones for warfare, information, and entertainment; and major advances in robotics and Artificial Intelligence that also impact media and media platforms. This host of august changes has often paradoxically stimulated a return to the art object, witnessed in Vision Anew by some authors’ probing of traditional values of photography (for instance, Gerry Badger’s 2012 essay “Keep it Simple Stupid, Just Make a Good Picture: The Basics of Photography”). It has led others, such as Lev Manovich, to redefine the terms of the game, as when he writes: “There is no such thing as
‘digital media.’ There is only software—as applied to media data (or ‘content’)” (206).

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Richard Misrach and Guillermo Galindo’s Border Cantos

Introduction and epilogue by Josh Kun
Aperture, 2016
274 pp./$75.00 (hb)

David Bacon

These women, two of the millions who’ve crossed the border between the United States and Mexico over the past two decades, describe this perilous journey as they lived it. For them, the border is not just geography, or a wall or a river. It is a passage of fire, an ordeal that must be survived in order to send money from work in the US back to a hungry family, to find children and relatives from whom they have been separated by earlier journeys, or to flee an environment that has become too dangerous to bear. Some do not survive, dying as they try to cross the desert or swim the Rio Bravo, or murdered by gangs in northern Mexico. To them the border region has become a land of death.

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From the Issue


Installation footage of Rineke Dijkstra: Rehearsals

Preview of Rosalind Fox Solomon’s 3-channel installation Got to Go at Bruce Silverstein Gallery

Media Received

Click here for our full Media Received Listings

Portfolio: Angry Bird Builds a Bridge

Text by Dee Axelrod
Photographs by Sarah van Gelder

View this portfolio


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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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