Afterimage Vol. 45, No. 5

From the Issue

Toronto Art Book Fair

Jovana Jankovic

Since it feels excessive and unnecessary at this point to opine about the supposed “death of print culture,” we could instead just go ahead and celebrate its remains, its new iterations, and its lasting magic. The Toronto Art Book Fair (TOABF)—now in its third year—indulges in exactly this kind of joyful celebration of a medium receding in both physical and economic weight, while injecting equally joyful doses of local flavor, anti-oppressive politics, and a notably heart-warming sense of community.

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Edit Film Culture!

Steven Yates

The Silent Green Kulturquartier, housed in a former crematorium in Berlin that was built in 1911, is now home to four initiatives: a record label; the SAVVY Contemporary art gallery; a foundation dedicated to the work of the late filmmaker, author, and film essayist Harun Farocki; and the film archive of Arsenal—Institut für Film und Videokunst e.V. Although a center for moving image art, Silent Green Kulturquartier also hosts conferences and experimental musical performances. In July 2018, a festival celebrating Film Culture magazine and associated writers and avant-garde filmmakers was hosted here and at Arsenal’s cinema in Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz.

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Kathryn Kramer

Beginning in 2011, SITE Santa Fe developed a network of curators, artists, art professionals, and cultural critics who advocated broadening the typical biennial’s embrace of contemporary art beyond the narrowly defined internationalism of a showcase that had been more or less unexamined for a century. The goal in the course of exchanges between key figures was not only to analyze biennials at large but also to remodel SITE’s own biennial, established in 1995. The group functioned as a kind of think-tank, comprising a multiplicity of generations, cultures, traditions, histories, ideologies, and aesthetics appropriate to a crucial rethinking of long-established institutional practices surrounding large-scale, perennial exhibitions of contemporary art (which will be referred to as “biennials” here). Above all, this assembly’s diversity encompassed contemporary art worlds throughout South, Central, and North America, acknowledged yet still underrepresented throughout mainstream biennial culture. Initial debates centered on how to challenge tenacious assumptions about biennials that no longer apply. Particularly interrogated was the persistent notion that biennials’ effective international reach demands global financial centers as host cities. Characterizing a biennial’s success chiefly in terms of its degree of art and high finance linkage seemed broadly problematic to the group. But upon closer examination of the biennial/global city liaison, a very specific problem surfaced. The group recognized an ever more common derailing of a biennial format’s prime mission to introduce the widest possible range of contemporary art. Instead of launching careers, biennials increasingly presented international art superstars selected from predictable lists whose members perpetually moved along the constantly proliferating biennial circuits. Audiences for these globalized biennials seemed equally predictable. These repetitive processions of artists and their audiences lacked much if any local connection to the exhibitions sites. Thus, visitors truly engaged in critical discussion were equally lacking.

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The Outmoded Instant: From Instagram to Polaroid

Alicia Chester

Launched in October 2010 with thirteen employees, Instagram quickly grew to over thirty million users by early 2012, when it made the news for being acquired by Facebook for one billion dollars. The app’s acquisition by Facebook inspired a profusion of online articles and blog entries obsessed with enumeration––thirteen employees, thirty million users, one billion dollars––as well as comparisons of Instagram to Kodak from the standpoints of both technological and economic innovation. These comparisons attempt to explore why Instagram was so successful at the very moment Kodak filed for bankruptcy in 2012, but they are interesting less for their descriptions of evolving business models than for their historical accounts connecting outmoded analog processes to newer photographic technologies. As Instagram turns eight years old, with billions of photos to its name and millions more uploaded every day, the app has proven its staying power by cornering the market as the most employ

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Neoliberal Violence, Online Protest Images, and Constructing the Photography of the Commons

Clorinde Peters

On the night of July 22, 2018, 18-year-old Nia Wilson and her older sister Lahtifa Wilson had just disembarked a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train at the MacArthur station in Oakland, California, when they were attacked and stabbed by a young white man. The brutal attack, which has widely been referred to as a hate crime, left Lahtifa severely injured and Nia dead at the scene.

As with many such instances of violence against people of color, much of the coverage of the incident and the resulting mobilization of the public has taken place online, particularly across social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter. Collectivizing calls for action, protest, and memorial vigils were immediately organized and thousands have since mobilized to draw attention to Wilson’s murder and its connection to white supremacy, state violence, and the ways in which young people, particularly youth of color, are rendered especially vulnerable in today’s sociopolitical climate.

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Vilém Flusser’s Seventies: Phenomenology, Television, Cybernetics, and Video Art

Martha Schwendener

The Czech-Brazilian media philosopher Vilém Flusser (1920–91) is best known in North America for his technical image trilogy written in the 1980s: Towards a Philosophy of Photography (1983), Into the Universe of Technical Images (1985), and Does Writing Have a Future? (1987). For Flusser, technical images included any technologically generated images: photography, film, television, video, computer, and satellite images. Technical images signaled a shift from linear history, written and read line-by-line, to “posthistory,” in which scanning images in a superficial, nonlinear manner shapes human consciousness. Flusser’s philosophy emphasized the apparatus over the image: the camera over the photograph and the gesture of photographing over reception, reproduction, or dissemination of specific images. Before he conceived of “technical images,” however, Flusser was steeped in cybernetics, television, and video art, which helped shape his ideas in the 1970s. This essay looks at some of Flusser’s writing, collaborations, and activities from that period.

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Exhibition Reviews

Selected Affinities

Jody Zellen

Christopher Grimes Gallery
Santa Monica, California
June 23–August 31, 2018

Selected Affinities is a group exhibition that focuses on attitudes toward the cultural and physical landscape, ranging from issues of preservation to globalization, and features color photographs by Allan Sekula, Miles Coolidge, Connie Samaras, and Katie Shapiro, as well as a short black-and-white film by Billy Woodberry. Each of the participating Los Angeles-based artists has an expansive body of work, so it is a bit disappointing that Coolidge, Samaras, and Shapiro are each represented by just three images culled from a greater whole. This may leave some viewers curious and wanting more. In many ways, the exhibition pays homage to Sekula (1951–2013), an influential mentor, teacher, and colleague to those active in the academic faction of the Los Angeles photo community. Another curious aspect of the exhibition is the fact that the works date from 1992 to 2015, situating the exhibition in the recent past rather than the present.

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Harriet Riches

Heong Gallery, Downing College
Cambridge, UK
June 16–October 7, 2018

Opening its doors in the early days of this summer’s cross-continental heatwave, the Heong Gallery’s latest show appeared right on cue. Just after FLOTUS’s choice of sloganed jacket prompted a debate on the power of high-street fashion to mediate political messages, and in the lead-up to the UK visit in which POTUS dismissed his own interview with the tabloid newspaper the Sun as so much “fake news,” this show’s focus on the power of communication—and deliberate miscommunication—reflected the spirit of the season.

Taking its title from a 2013 work by American painter Mel Bochner, and drawn from the British Museum’s modern prints collection and the University of Cambridge’s own art collection, DO I HAVE TO DRAW YOU A PICTURE? explores art’s engagement with the spaces and platforms of mass communication—from the democratic multiplicity offered by the printing press, to the hyper-legibility of sign-writing, to the seductive allure of LED lights and the glamour of neon.

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Book Reviews

The Postconceptual Condition: Critical Essays

Max L. Feldman

By Peter Osborne
Verso, 2018

Compelling but difficult, The Postconceptual Condition extends the arguments of Osborne’s previous book Anywhere or Not at All: Philosophy of Contemporary Art (2013). Osborne provides neither a reductive diagnosis of the times nor easily digestible quotations, though there are plenty of rewards for patient readers interested in the fate of contemporary art. While readers are expected to be familiar with the hermetic language of aesthetic theory as well as additional material supporting Osborne’s arguments—including the first two volumes of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital (1867), globalization theory, and his own writings since the mid-1990s—he is a scholar to the last and provides copious footnotes.

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Portfolio: Xilunguine

Paul Castro

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Media Received

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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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