Afterimage Vol. 39 No. 5

Afterimage 39.5 - Cover and Portfolio

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Reports

GLOCAL HISTORY
Prospect New Orleans: Prospect.2
New Orleans
October 22, 2011–January 29, 2012
by Kathryn Kramer [DDET (+)]

The phenomenon of a world-renowned city hosting an
international art event for the purpose of wider public engagement
with art dates back to the establishment of the Venice Biennale in
1895. Dan Cameron, the founding director of the Prospect New
Orleans biennial, has cited the Venice Biennale as an important
model for his venture. His purpose for launching Prospect New
Orleans in 2007 was to inspire high-minded art tourism as well
as to spawn a “biennial effect” of cultural capitalization for the
revival of the ravaged city. Yet at the Biennale’s origins, Venice
was acting as an illustrious agent for Italy’s cultural status among
modern nations. Prospect New Orleans, on the other hand,
began with the post-Katrina city in the much humbler position
of seeking a prominent place on the global art circuit perpetually
traveled by a transnational arts-and-leisure class. The hopedfor
scenario is that a “creative class” of settlers will follow these
geocultural nomads and begin to revitalize and globalize New
Orleans with their entrepreneurial activities.

Currently there is much debate about whether so-called “disaster
biennials” are truly successful in terms of having any impact upon
the conditions they seek to alleviate—particularly if they lack a
sufficient number of iterations to take root and make a difference
(which they generally do, due to pressing financial exigencies).
And even if a biennial effect attracts circulating global capital
and the exhibitions become bi-yearly fixtures, they often suffer
from reputations as mere marketing tools for their host cities’
rebranding aspirations.

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Essays

ARTS & LABOR IN THE AGE OF OCCUPATION
by Martha Schwendener [DDET (+)]

In the fifteen years I have been writing and publishing art
criticism, I’ve seen a few shifts in the art world. There
was the rise of participatory art and social practice, and a
version of these that flourished at biennials labeled “Relational
Aesthetics,” which a fellow critic, Howard Halle, recently called
“conceptualism for oligarchs.” There was the rise of interest in
performance and calls to end object-making—although an artist
friend recently asked, “Does that mean we’re going to leave it to
Nike, Sony, and Walmart to put all the objects into the world?”

And then came the worldwide Occupy movement, influenced
by the Arab Spring, the European Summer, and, in the fall of
2011, Occupy Wall Street (OWS). I was not involved in earlier
iterations of OWS, like Bloombergville, an encampment near
City Hall in New York that started in the summer of 2011. I
became involved with OWS shortly after September 17, when
the occupation started, and some of the questions it raised,
naturally, involved how it might relate to the present and future
of art.

Occupy Wall Street dovetailed in many ways with current
strains of art, like social practice, in which artists function more
as event planners, organizers, sociologists, and activists, and
participation that involves art made or completed by groups
rather than singular, individual “geniuses.”

There is also an overlap with the 1960s, which brought
performance, video, installation, Land Art, earthworks, and
the interdisciplinary mergers of media like dance, film, theater,
and writing. It was also an age of radical politics, and although
the failures of many projects were already obvious in the ’60s,
some of these weren’t apparent until the ’70s, when Institutional
Critique—which would become a recognized institutional form
in the ’80s—entered the art world.

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AHMED BASIONY: MEDIA ARTIST OR MARTYR?
by Omar Kholeif [DDET (+)]

When I returned to Cairo in the summer of 2011, for
the first time since the public revolution that swept
Egypt in January of that year, my first inclination
was to visit Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. It was the site
where my family, like many other Egyptians, had protested in
the hopes of ridding their nation of despotic rule. Before my
visit I had seen dozens of personal photos. Everyone I knew,
from my elderly grandparents (who have since passed) to my
cousins, was appropriating images for posters they designed
and proudly carried during each Friday march. They gathered
photographs, from Nelson Mandela to Gandhi, which they blew
up and emblazoned across sheaths of linoleum and laminated
cardboard—coupled with quotes and pleas for freedom. In
retrospect, this creative example of appropriation has become
one of the defining characteristics of the revolutionary movement
in Egypt, and perhaps even the wider Arab world.

Certainly, image control has been paramount to both sides of the
power struggle. The dominant mass media that was allied to state
interests has continued to perpetuate an illusion of stability, while
social media activists and (ultimately) international news media
have been catching on, and disseminating “humanized” image
accounts of dissidence. Of these, a select number of portraits
were utilized by the pro-revolutionary movement—namely,
photographs of martyred youth. One of the most popular and
widely circulated photographs on social media was that of
the murdered Egyptian new media artist, Ahmed Basiony.
A photograph of the young man smiling was repurposed and
annotated in news stories with emotionally gripping information
about his young widow and child.

I am uncertain as to why Basiony’s character was so prominent
during these moments, but I believe that some of it may be
attributed to the fact that in Egypt, artists are “elevated”
from ordinary humans to a kind of otherworldly bourgeoisie.
Basiony’s ability to simultaneously symbolize artistry and the
everyman protestor made him a ubiquitously accessible figure.
My realization of this fact occurred to me when each of my
parents, neither of whom would have in any way been attuned
to new media art in Egypt or beyond, contacted me in tears
because “one of Egypt’s great artists” had died.

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Features

CREATIVE CODES: A CONVERSATION WITH GOLAN LEVIN
by Joanna Heatwole [DDET (+)]

Though aptly dubbed the “godfather of creative code” and
“Geek Superstar” by techie art bloggers for his individual
contributions to the digital arts, Golan Levin’s work and
interests have always had an inclusive and collaborative tone.
So it will come as no surprise to his audiences that Levin’s most
recent projects reveal a more overt rebellion against software
monopolization and the homogenizing tendencies of commercial
visual culture.

Levin aims his myriad personal artistic projects precisely toward
the current technological and cultural moment. His engineering
and computer science savvy allows him to create work that
responds just-in-time to the very latest digital impact on human
life. Levin’s work reflects our initial marvel at the devices of
the day. While playful, the underlying exploration of digitally
mediated gesture and human-machine interaction is thoughtprovoking
and impeccably designed. His signature style has
involved creating and coding a highly technical device toward
a time-based and visually poetic audio-visual performance
or artifact. A classic early example, Dialtones (A Telesymphony)
(2001), involved orchestrating a program to systematically dial
and ring the varied tones of the audience members’ cell phones
in a symphonic hall—not as the embarrassing interruption it
was considered at the time, but rather as a musical recital. A
composer’s sensitivity to timing is also essential to the humor
linking Levin’s works, such as in Double-Taker (Snout) (2008),
where a larger-than-life, one-eyed robotic creature mounted on
the roof of an academic building reacts with simulated surprise
as people approach the door.

As one of a number of prolific digital artists nurtured early in
their careers by John Maeda’s Aesthetics and Computational
Group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Levin has
already made a marked impact of his own in media education.
He promotes a radical demystification of artistic coding and
an insistence on the possibilities of universal skill access. From
his students at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), where he is
currently an associate professor of Electronic Time-Based Art, to
the diverse attendees of the ongoing ART && CODE conferences
he spearheads, Levin debunks the stereotype of data hoarding
and academic infighting with the generous sharing of resources
and knowledge. In the following Skype-mediated conversation
from December 2011, Levin considers the impact of some of
his latest collaborative projects and educational efforts that fall
outside the more commonly published academic and commercial
gallery contexts.

Joanna Heatwole: Looking into your new work, I was
particularly interested in QR_HOBO_CODES (2011) as
an example of one of your Free Art & Technology Lab
(F.A.T. Lab) collaborations.

Golan Levin: The F.A.T. Lab is my posse. When I want to
work quasi-anonymously and when I want to work with people
my age who are really juvenile, then I work with these guys. A
lot of these projects are intended to tweak the media and be provocative
almost for the sake of being provocative. Their main
mission is to create new work at the intersection of pop culture
and open source. What that means in terms of pop culture is
that they really are engaged with creating viral media—work
that grabs people’s attention because it deals with current issues
and things people care about. Dealing with open source means
creating and sharing free tools that people can use to engage—
and mash up and destroy—pop culture.

JH: At first that particular series seemed like a different
era of work for you. But I remembered that you’d
done graffiti-themed work before. Has that been a
long-time interest of yours?

GL: I think it’s an important phenomenon, but I don’t necessarily
think it’s beautiful. That may be funny to say given that there
was a time in my life when I got very into the aesthetics of graffiti.
As a twelve year old I was interested in the formal aspects of
typography and color and what seemed to me as a very energetic,
vibrant, and youthful form of play. I couldn’t really think of
any other visual youth cultures at the time where anyone could
engage with the medium—where how good a visual artist you
were actually seemed to be important. Finding a way that kind of
stuff could be shared, “broadcasted,” appreciated, and respected,
was something that interested me as a twelve year old.
Now my interest in graffiti is very different and it comes from
a deep-seated aggravation I have with the way public space
has been taken over by corporate messaging. I think the public
sphere no longer seems to belong to the public. We need to
take back public space. I don’t think we need to do this with an
aggressive movement of uglification, but I think we need some
tools to counterbalance the kind of messages that are happening
in public space right now—messages that are reinforcing an
order that may not be a good order to have. The term I came up
with in developing the QR code was situated visualization.

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DANCING WITH STRANGERS: A CONVERSATION WITH LAUREL NAKADATE
by Harry J. Weil [DDET (+)]

Laurel Nakadate is a master storyteller. The New York
photographer and video artist, who grew up in rural Iowa,
is in continual search of what is over the next horizon.
She has tossed used underwear out of a moving train, danced
to Britney Spears in the middle of a desolate desert landscape,
and made herself cry every day for a year. Part diary entry, part
sexual expose, her narratives are a clever mix of voyeurism,
tragedy, and slapstick in the style of Laurel and Hardy.

Nakadate has achieved international fame in art circles since
graduating from Yale University with an MFA in Photography
in 2001, and her work has been exhibited at the Reina Sofia
in Madrid, MoMA PS1 in New York City, and the Centre
Pompidou in Paris. Her accolades extend well beyond the art
world: her first feature film, Stay the Same Never Change (2008),
premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and in 2011 her
second feature film, The Wolf Knife (2010), was nominated for an
Independent Spirit Award.

Her earliest photographs and videos record encounters with
strangers, typically middle-aged, overweight, unkempt, and
socially awkward men one might expect to encounter in gas
stations or at Walmart, not in a contemporary art gallery. The
scenarios range from silly (pretending to be a dog and a cat) and
absurd (having them sing “Happy Birthday” to her), to unsettling
(a series of men screaming invectives at absent former lovers).
The men are a stark contrast to Nakadate, who is physically
stunning. It is hard to deny the sexual tensions bubbling just
under the surface of her brash humor. Sigmund Freud suggested
that all humor is a form of aggression; and since society prohibits
the direct expression of anger and sexual drive, these desires are
sublimated in joke telling. Like dreams, these jokes and slips of
the tongue bear the traces of repressed desire. Do we laugh at
Nakadate’s exploits because we are uncomfortable? Aroused? Or
merely perplexed?

For her latest project, Three Performances in Search of Tennessee
(2011), Nakadate teamed up with actor James Franco for a
reinterpretation of Tennessee Williams’s 1944 play The Glass
Menagerie. The live performance opened with Franco and
Nakadate sitting pensively on a darkened stage, as two mediums
channeled the spirit of Williams, who died in 1983. In the
second act, a large screen projected a video of Franco acting a
scene from the play while actresses found through a Craigslist
ad entered the stage to audition for the role of Laura Wingfield.
The casting calls didn’t offer any specifics, and many of the
women were dumbfounded to see the real-life Franco directing
from the sidelines. But instead of interacting with him, they roleplayed
with the project video by reading lines off the screen in
karaoke style. Nakadate and Franco continually commanded
the actresses to speak louder, look toward the audience, or show
more feeling, as the audience roared with laughter. In the final
sequence, several male actors, including the performance artist
Ryan McNamara, auditioned for the part of Tom Wingfield by
reciting his soliloquy from the close of the play.

Partway through The Glass Menagerie, Tom is eager to tell his
sister Laura about a magic show where the magician manages
to escape from a sealed coffin, an apt metaphor for his own
desire to leave behind his abusive mother and dull existence.
And, by the play’s finale, he is resolved to follow his dream and
venture into a world that is “lit by lightning.” This is the kind of
storytelling, one of very simple, very human emotions, in which
Nakadate invests her considerable talents.

This interview took place at Leslie Tonkonow Artworks +
Projects in New York City, in January 2012.

Harry Weil: Let’s begin at the beginning. You went to
Yale for graduate work in photography, but much of
your practice over the past decade seems to be focused
on video and film.

Laurel Nakadate: I guess so. Well, I say that but then I think
in the last three, four years I have made two feature films and
then did a one-year performance that was photo-based. The
past ten years I have done a grab bag of things, including photo,
video, and film.

HW: Regardless of your medium, all of your work has
this grainy quality to it.

LN: I love consumer-grade products. I use a Canon G10, the
kind of camera a dad uses at track meets or to tape a high school
graduation. Right now I am working on a new series of photos,
“Star Portraits,” where I meet strangers in the middle of the
night, in pitch dark. For that I am using a much better quality
camera, because it offers the kind of description only a highquality
camera could give. With that said, I am still wedded to the
idea that you can make pictures with just about any device—you
don’t need a twenty-thousand dollar camera to tell your story. A
pinhole camera would work just fine.

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ART IN A REVOLUTION: A CONVERSATION WITH LARA BALADI
by Dorothea Schoene [DDET (+)]

Egyptian-Lebanese artist Lara Baladi was born in Beirut,
raised in Cairo and Paris, educated in London, and has
lived and worked in Egypt since 1997. Baladi has worked
in advertising, film and photography production management,
radio broadcasting, photojournalism, and set photography for
feature films. Since 1997, she has made forays into archival
research, directed magazine editorials, and curated both
exhibitions and artist residencies as a member of the Arab
Image Foundation.

The amalgamation of these experiences overlaps with and carries
over into Baladi’s art practice. Her creations—published and
exhibited worldwide—range from photography, video, prints,
and visual montages and collages, to installations, architectural
constructions, tapestries, and even perfume. Baladi won first
prize (the Grand Nile Award) at the Cairo Biennale 2008/2009
for her ephemeral construction and sound installation “Borg El
Amal” (in Arabic, “Tower of Hope”).

In 2011, Baladi became the Cultural/Artistic Curator and
Outreach Director for Radio Tahrir, as well as the co-founder
and organizer of Tahrir Cinema. Both projects were born after
the eighteen-day uprising that toppled president Mubarak’s
leadership. Inaugurated on July 14, 2011, during the second
sit-in in Tahrir Square, Tahrir Cinema screened rushes, short
documentaries, viral clips from YouTube, and videos selected
from the internet, revisiting the Egyptian revolution since January
2011. An open submission platform, Tahrir Cinema informed
and raised discussion among demonstrators. It also challenged
the political commitment and ideas of those who took control
of Tahrir Square a second time (until the end of July), when the
army dispersed the sit-in. Their demands included profound
political change and the fulfillment of promises made by Egypt’s
Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). Tahrir Cinema
now only runs when Tahrir Square is temporarily occupied.

In this conversation, Baladi discusses the political events taking
place in Egypt since the beginning of 2011, her artwork, and
the general artistic response to the nationwide demonstrations
against the Mubarak regime. This interview was conducted in
the summer of 2011 and in early 2012. During the review and
editorial process, protestors gathered continuously in Tahrir
Square. So did the artist. Events that have taken place since
this interview may not have been taken into account in the
conversation documented here.

Interview Part I (June–August 2011)

Dorothea Schoene: Since when have you been actively
involved in the revolution?

Lara Baladi: The protests started on Tuesday, January 25,
2011. The following Friday, January 28 (a non-working day),
most of the population went to the streets on what was called the
“Day of Anger.” “Day of Anger” refers to the anger against the
brutality used by the police forces against the protestors on the
three preceding days. I went down on that Friday. However, ever
since I started working as an artist, and increasingly so in the last
few years, my work has been reflecting my concerns with Egypt’s
extremely alarming sociopolitical context.

DS: In what ways did you participate?

LB: On January 28, I joined the people on Tahrir as a regular
citizen. But soon I began to be involved proactively. During the
eighteen days just before Mubarak stepped down, a few friends
and I were looking into ways to import equipment to start a pirate
radio station. Mubarak was toppled. At that point, there were
many people who had similar ideas, so we joined forces and I
took part in Radio Tahrir, an online radio. By then, the political
landscape was evolving quickly, and so did the objectives/mission
of the radio project. There was a euphoric atmosphere and a
generally strong optimistic belief that radical political change
could really take place.

Radio Tahrir was then indeed set up and is still running on an
on-and-off basis depending on the need to respond in emergency
to the political events. However, a much smaller group is actively
involved than originally.

On July 8, 2011, I started Tahrir Cinema with the non-profit
Egyptian media initiative Mosireen. It was during the second sitin
in Tahrir that the idea came about. People were screaming and
shouting on stages into microphones; there was so much diffused
information floating around but no focus. The sit-in was a great
opportunity to do something constructive. I am a visual artist
after all, and for me there was an urgent need for visuals in Tahrir,
as well as an urgent need for raising collective consciousness on
the reality of the political situation of the moment.

On Twitter the next day, I found a message from an activist
saying, “We need a projector to show films in the square.” This
confirmed my feeling, and I decided to organize projections and
take on what was to become Tahrir Cinema. One thing led to
another. Omar Robert Hamilton, a member of Mosireen, saw
one of my tweets and asked to meet me. We talked about the
project, and before I knew it we were a group putting together the
equipment, the screenings, and the program, and we started.
The idea was to show, share, and exchange documents on the
revolution and to recall and reflect on what had happened since
January—not only in Cairo, but also in Suez, Port Said, etc. Suez
in particular fought really hard and a lot of blood was, and is, still
shed for the political cause.

Tahrir Cinema also contributed and continues to contribute
to the ongoing process of collecting and archiving footage
on the revolution, which Mosireen had already started.
Ultimately, both Tahrir Cinema and Radio Tahrir counter
off icial media propaganda by offering a different perspective
on the current situation.

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Exhibition Reviews

CELEBRATING ANALOG
“Tacita Dean: FILM”
The Turbine Hall, Tate Modern
London, U.K.
October 11, 2011–March 11, 2012
Review by Alison Frank [DDET (+)]

Housed in a former power station designed by Sir Giles Gilbert
Scott, the Tate Modern benefits from an immense, five-story
exhibition space known as the Turbine Hall. Each year since
the gallery’s opening in 2000, Unilever has sponsored an artist
to create an installation for this space. Past pieces include
Olafur Eliasson’s “The Weather Project” (2003–04), which
brought sun, sky, and clouds indoors; and Carsten Höller’s
“Test Site” (2006–07), a long, curly, silver tube for visitors to
slide down. Doris Salcedo created a large crack in the floor of
the hall for “Shibboleth” (2007–08), while last year Ai Weiwei’s
“Sunflower Seeds” covered the same floor with 100 million
porcelain sunflower seeds. Tacita Dean’s “FILM” is the latest
Turbine Hall installation, and the first to focus solely on the
moving image. In this eleven-minute silent experimental film,
Dean expresses her appreciation for the analog format, now
under threat from digital technology.

Dean’s film is projected onto a thirteen-meter-high white block,
and is in portrait format, rather than the landscape orientation
cinema audiences are accustomed to. The artist’s interest in
analog filmmaking is immediately apparent, as every image
is flanked by the sprocket holes that characterize celluloid film
stock. Dean successfully evokes the unique qualities of celluloid
film: richly textured black-and-white images, luxuriantly
saturated color stock, and the manipulation of the physical film
roll itself, via hand-tinting individual frames, cutting, splicing,
and superimposing. Dean thus adopts the methods of cinema’s
early practitioners, but her approach is equally implicated in
the history of art. Dean explains in the exhibition notes: “My
process is one of incomprehensible and anachronistic labor, as is
all artistic process. Film is my working material and I need the
stuff of film like a painter needs the stuff of paint.”

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LUMINOUS FIELDS
“Preternatural”
The Canadian Museum of Nature, St. Brigid’s Centre for the Arts, and Patrick Mikhail Gallery
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
December 9, 2011–February 12, 2012
Review by William V. Ganis [DDET (+)]

The exhibition “Preternatural” dealt with a liminal conceptual
space, between objectivity and the metaphysical, and made
palpable in several contemporary art forms. Though not organized
as such, several themes permeated the exhibition: science invoked
to show the extraordinary; the spiritual made manifest and
sensual; and subtleties that delivered surprising multivalance.
Curator Celina Jeffery tested epistemological limits and even
offered compelling counterexamples to James Elkins’s observed
disconnection between spirituality and contemporary art. It was
fitting to frame a show about unconventional perceptions in three
idiosyncratic spaces: a deconsecrated Catholic basilica, a whitebox
gallery in a strip mall, and a natural history museum.

The former St. Brigid’s Cathedral, now St. Brigid’s Centre for
the Arts, is the most obvious space to evoke the spiritual. In a
site-specific performative intervention in the basilica, Anne
Katrine Senstad transformed the structure’s east and west
ends with a light-and-sound installation, “The Kinesthesia
of Saint Brigid” (2011). The references to light organs were
unmistakable as Senstad projected colors near the church’s
architecturally scaled pipe organ, comprised of shifting luminous
fields that caused retinal apparitions. At this size, the saturated
projections were an attempt to impress upon viewers something
of the numinous grandeur evoked in color-field paintings—the
ineffable claimed by Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko, among
many others. The accompanying music by J.G. Thirlwell added
cinematic majesty through its modulated, meditative monotones.

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Double Take
“Narrative Interventions in Photography
J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles
October 25, 2011–March 11, 2012
Review by Jody Zellen [DDET (+)]

“An image is not a permanent referent for those mutable
complexities of life which are revealed through it; its purpose
is not to make us perceive meaning but to create a special
perception of the object—it creates a vision of the object
instead of serving as a means for knowing it.”
—Viktor Shklovsky, “Art as Technique” (1917)

Making strange, a term associated with Russian formalism, refers
to the idea of seeing anew. Viktor Shklovsky coined the term,
calling it defamiliarization, and describes it as “the technique
of forcing the audience to see common things in an unfamiliar
or strange way, in order to enhance perception of the familiar.”1
In “Narrative Interventions in Photography,” Eileen Cowin,
Simryn Gill, and Carrie Mae Weems create photographic
interventions in received narratives so that images can be seen in
a new way. An intervention into a narrative could be thought of
as a disruption of its flow that changes the way it is read. All three
artists employ language as part of their interventions, although
the way they use it—integrated into the image or as caption—
differs greatly. Cowin, Gill, and Weems intervene in received
narratives to change perceptions of history, nature, and truth.

Weems’s “From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried”
(1995–96) is a series of thirty-three photographic enlargements
(seventeen of which are on view at the Getty) of African Americans
throughout the history of photography. Weems levels the
originals, which were made for different reasons and at different
times, unifying their presentation by making them consistent.
She tints the images red and vignettes them to reference a
camera lens. Etched into the glass atop each photograph is a text
that gives voice to a subject who historically was denied a voice.
Her intention was to simultaneously speak to the image and have
the subject of the image speak to the viewer. The series unfolds
like a film and can be read linearly. The opening image is tinted
blue rather than red and is a picture of an African woman gazing
across the rest of the sequence. Weems’s text begins with: “From
Here I Saw What Happened.” She makes this statement to ask
what happened to Africans and African Americans historically
and culturally as a way to undermine their stereotypical
representation. And what happened? “You Became A Scientific
Profile,” “A Negroid Type,” “An Anthropological Debate,”
“& A Photographic Subject,” “You Became Playmate To The
Patriarch,” “And Their Daughter,” “You Became Boots, Spades
& Coons.” The sequence concludes with a repetition of the first
image, this time looking back with the words: “And I cried.”
Weems’s textual intervention is poetic and, when read, has a
rhythmic cadence. Weems speaks through the men and women
depicted. Because of the sensitivity of her intervention, she gives
them humanity. Weems speaks about “From Here I Saw What
Happened and I Cried” as one of her more painful works. She
diverts the reading of this collection of images she has amassed
from myriad sources and institutions, injecting the narrative
with an emotional sensitivity and new purpose. Her intervention
is meant to recontextualize these images, to rewrite history in
order to change how images like these are interpreted.

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MODES OF CONTEMPLATION
“The Art of Deceleration: Motion and Rest in Art from Caspar David Friedrich to Ai Weiwei”
Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg
Wolfsburg, Germany
November 12, 2011–April 9, 2012
Review by Dorothea Schoene [DDET (+)]

In 2006, the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg was the first museum in
Germany to give all of its exhibitions the overarching theme of
“The pursuit of modernism in the 21st century.” Conceived as
an aesthetic research approach with both historical and thematic
dimensions, it aims to explore the trajectories of modernity within
the context of a globalized twenty-first century. The Kunstmuseum
Wolfsburg thus illustrates one of the few remaining domains of a
museum in opposition to the private art market: the sovereignty
of interpreting art works within both political and art history.

With over 160 works by eighty-five internationally renowned
artists, the museum has now undertaken the ambitious task of
analyzing the dialectic relationship between “Motion” and
“Rest,” from romanticism to modern times. Terms such as
“burnout syndrome,” “rushalism,” “24/7 availability,” “constant
flux,” and “mobility without doubt” characterize our century.
In this era of efficiency, many people have begun to advocate a
slower pace of living. The Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg has mounted
a major exhibition on this most relevant topic of our day: the
need for deceleration within the constantly increasing stress of a
globalized world.

The period of art history encompassed by the exhibition spans
from Caspar David Friedrich to Ai Weiwei. While addressing
modern social life, the museum simultaneously takes on the
misconception of avant-garde and modernist art as simple
celebratory attitude toward, and glorification of, industrialization
and acceleration.

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THE POLITICAL AVANT-GARDE REPURPOSED
“Lis Rhodes: Dissonance and Disturbance”
Institute of Contemporary Arts
London, U.K
January 25–March 25, 2012
Review by Sharon Lin Tay [DDET (+)]

Lis Rhodes’s “Dissonance and Disturbance” exhibition recalls
the feminist film movement with three installations. This is
perhaps a fitting revival, given the parallels that may be drawn
between Britain’s political climate today and that of the Thatcher
years. Now, as then, we see a Conservative government pursuing
ideologically motivated policies and privatizations resulting
in high unemployment, riots, and rising inequality. Rhodes’s
earlier works are reminders of how experimental art forms
can be imbued with a radical politics, while her later works are
instructive of the necessity to once again tool up and respond to
political imperatives in art practices.

The large installations are housed in two facing rooms, and
in the foyer between them sits a television with headsets. This
smaller installation consists of two one-minute films from 1983,
No. 8 Bus and Goose and Common. These films, part of the “Hang
On a Minute” (1985) series of short poetic films commissioned
by Channel 4, reveal succinct political critiques. No. 8 Bus indicts
the mining company, Rio Tinto Zinc, with illegal mining in
Namibia and the suppression of wages for its workers. Goose and
Common juxtaposes two instances, at Greenham Common airfield
in Berkshire and at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, where
controversies emerged around the British government’s use of
land for military purposes. The involuntary relocation of the
native population of Diego Garcia and the anti-nuclear protests
by the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp were points
of political reference for Goose and Common. That Rhodes’s work
affirms the feminist edict that the personal is political is evident
in No. 8 Bus, where merely establishing corporate wrongdoing
is insufficient. Rhodes instead manages to make the connection
between illegal mining, rising energy prices, and the poverty that
results from exploitative corporate practices in an idiosyncratic
one-minute film with a singing female voice-over. The voice-over
sings of rent in arrears, unfed children, and not having the bus
fare to the city with its stock exchange and international thieves.

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LOOK, LISTEN, SEE
“Ron Terada: Being There”
Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma
Helsinki, Finland
April 15–November 27, 2011

“focus: Sharon Hayes”
Art Institute of Chicago
November 10, 2011–March 11, 2012

Review by Suzanne Szucs [DDET (+)]

Conceptual art from the 1960s and ’70s swept through The
Windy City at the close of 2011. Both major Chicago art
museums mounted exhibitions celebrating the genre: a survey of
conceptual photography at the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC),
“Light Years: Conceptual Art and the Photograph, 1964–1977,”
and a more ambitious survey of twentieth-century conceptual
art complemented by contemporary conceptual artists,
“The Language of Less (Then and Now),” at the Museum of
Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA). Nostalgia for the era
seemed rampant.

In perusing these shows, it was interesting to note that many
of the gestures felt hollow forty years later. The measurements
and calculations of that era of conceptual art often feel sterile
and limited. Perhaps it was a lack of emotion in the museums’
major conceptual shows that made two smaller shows stand out
so effectively. Ron Terada at the MCA and Sharon Hayes at
the AIC both put up shows conceptual in nature, but employed
nostalgia to powerfully consider the nature of identity in a media saturated
world.

For “Being There,” Terada created Soundtrack for an Exhibition
(2010), a video and sound piece consisting of ten tracks from
various LPs that set the mood for the exhibit. A large projected
video of a phonograph playing each album dominated the first
room of the exhibition, and the viewer was welcomed by crooning
male voices that immediately created a sentimental familiarity.
This was not just any turntable, but rather the legendary Marantz
Model 6100 with a lustrous teak base representing the high fidelity
of an era when listening to an album was an activity in itself, not
simply the background for everyday life. Terada’s song choices
all had a dreamy quality. From Tame Impala’s Alter Ego (“. . .
the only one who’s really judging you is yourself”) to Morrissey’s
anxious lilt in The Loop, each seemed chosen to question viewers’
actions and motivations.

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HOUSES DIVIDED
“Broken Homes”
Momenta Art
Brooklyn, New York
December 9–January 22, 2012
Review by Dan Tarnowski [DDET (+)]

The group exhibition “Broken Homes” at Momenta Gallery in
the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn featured artists from
the United States and England who work in a variety of media,
including sculpture, photography, and video installation. The
twenty-four pieces of artwork in the show offered a myriad of
perspectives on the idea of home.

Peter Scott’s Tinkering (2009) juxtaposes a photo of a skyscraper
with a photo of a family playing with Tinker Toys that was taken
from a billboard advertisement. Both photographs are shot from
below so that the skyscraper appears to loom high above the
family. When compared to the unsafe world of the skyscraper, the
family with its broad smiles and colorful toys appears idealized.

Naomi Safran-Hon’s series “Home Invasion” (2011) includes
a photograph of an upscale kitchen under construction. A
belligerent force intrudes into the home as hardened blobs of
concrete that push through the windows, doors, and outlets.
This intrusion is fitting, as Safran-Hon’s domestic sites were
photographed in Israel, where family life is regularly affected by
military activity. The artist achieved a unique effect by pressing
wet concrete through pieces of lace stretched across cutouts in the
photograph. As the concrete passed through the lace it morphed
into floral shapes as well as spaghetti strips, the white lace flooded
with dull gray concrete alluding to corruption and decay.

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Book Reviews

STILL THINGS MOVE
Between Stillness and Motion: Film, Photography, Algorithms
Edited by Eivind Røssaak
Amsterdam University Press, 2011
192 pp./$35 (sb)
Review by Sarah Markgraf [DDET (+)]

In the visual arts, there is no shortage of opinion about the seismic shift from analog to digital imagery. To some, computers have killed photography and cinema, while others see greater freedom and possibility for both still and moving images in the age of new media. What may be more limited are shrewdly focused arenas for productive discussion of the changing notions of what comprises an image in the digital age.

In Between Stillness and Motion: Film, Photography, Algorithms (2011),
part of Amsterdam University Press’s Film Culture in Transition
series, Eivind Røssaak locates a promising space for this complex
discourse: an exploration of the paradox between still and
moving images in the three media identified in his title. Røssaak
names this new area of scholarly and artistic inquiry “the still/
moving field.”

Røssaak is an associate professor in the Department of
Scholarship and Collections at the National Library of Oslo,
Norway. He has also been a Visiting Professor at the University
of Southern California, New York University, and the University
of Chicago. That he has assembled an anthology of ten original
scholarly articles authored by luminaries in the international
realm of media studies is already notable. But the wide range of
theoretical approaches, objects of study, and points of reference
make this collection even more attractive to readers interested
in media studies, especially those familiar with its specialized
vocabulary and current concerns.

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Media Noted

Halsted Plays Himself
By William E. Jones
Semiotext(e), 2011
216 pp./$24.95 (hb)
Noted by Patrick Friel [DDET (+)]

In 1972 Fred Halsted released—perhaps unleashed is more apt—his
hardcore gay S&M porn film L.A. Plays Itself, a pioneering work of the
genre and one that surprisingly crossed over to achieve some
mainstream attention and acclaim for its aesthetic vision (it even screened at the Museum of Modern Art). Forty years later, media artist and author
William E. Jones has released his own pioneering work—the first detailed
publication on Halsted and a brief but important excavation of a nearly forgotten history.

For the full text of Afterimage articles subscribe now![/DDET]

Revolution as an Eternal Dream: the Exemplary Failure of the Madame Binh Graphics Collective
By Mary Patten, with a preface by Lucy Lippard and an afterword by Gregory Sholette
Half Letter Press, 2011
84 pp./$13.00 (sb)
Noted by Daniel Tucker [DDET (+)]

It is all too rare to see social movement history interwoven with
art history—so what a pleasure it is to read Mary Patten’s memoir, which
does exactly that. Patten recounts, through short essays paired with
full-color graphics reproductions, her days in the May 19 Communist
Organization, working with particular commitment in the graphics and
propaganda subcommittee known as the Madame Binh Graphics
Collective from 1975 to 1983.

For the full text of Afterimage articles subscribe now![/DDET]

Media Received

BOOKS [DDET (+)]

The Art of Immersion, by Frank Rose. W.W. Norton & Company/354 pp./$16.95 (sb).

Conjugations: Marriage and Form in New Bollywood Cinema, by Sangita Gopal. University of Chicago Press/242 pp./$22.50 (sb).

Consciousness, by Christof Koch. The MIT Press/177 pp./$24.95 (sb).

Consuming Visions: Cinema, Writing, and Modernity in Rio de Janeiro, by Maite Conde. University of Virginia Press/227 pp./$21.50 (sb).

Debates in the Digital Humanities, by Matthew K. Gold. University of Minnesota Press/516 pp./$34.95 (sb).

Diane Arbus’s 1960s: Auguries of Experience, by Frederick Gross. University of Minnesota Press/235 pp./$24.95 (sb).

A Different Light: The Photography of Sebastião Salgado, by Parvati Nair. Duke University Press/365 pp./$29.95 (sb).

Digital Visual Effects in Cinema: The Seduction of Reality, by Stephen Prince. Rutgers University Press/256 pp./$25.95 (sb).

The Electric Information Age Book, by Jeffrey T. Schnapp and Adam Michaels. Princeton Architectural Press/239 pp./$19.95 (sb).

The Essential New Art Examiner, edited by Terri Griffith, Kathryn Born, and Janet Koplos. Northern Illinois University Press/336 pp./$22.50 (sb).

Hideous Progeny: Disability, Eugenics, and Classic Horror Cinema, by Angela M. Smith. Columbia University Press/336 pp./$27.50 (sb).

Hiroshima After Iraq: Three Studies in Art and War, by Rosalyn Deutsche. Columbia University Press/88 pp./$18.00 (sb).

Houses Made of Wood and Light: The Life and Architecture of Hank Schubart, by Michele Dunkerley, with Jane Hickie, photographs by Jim Alinder. University of Texas Press/182 pp./$50.00 (hb).

I Read Where I Am: Exploring New Information Cultures, compiled by Mieke Gerritzen, Geert Lovink, and Minke Kampman. Valiz/264 pp./$24.95 (sb).

Jeff Koons: One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank, by Michael Archer. The MIT Press/105 pp./$16.00 (sb).

Learning with the Lights Off: Educational Film in the United States, edited by Devin Orgeron, Marsha Orgeron, and Dan Streible. Oxford University Press/525 pp./$34.95 (sb).

The Maltese Touch of Evil: Film Noir and Potential Criticism, by Shannon Scott Clute and Richard L. Edwards. Dartmouth College Press/316 pp./$39.95 (sb).

The Men Who Knew Too Much: Henry James and Alfred Hitchcock, edited by Susan M. Griffin and Alan Nadel. Oxford University Press/269 pp./$27.95 (sb).

Notes toward a Conditional Art, by Robert Irwin. Getty Publications/332 pp./$35.00  (hb).

[/DDET]MONOGRAPHS [DDET (+)]

Death in Venice, by Will Aitken. Arsenal Pulp Press/187 pp./$14.95 (sb).

Doug Beube: Breaking the Codex, introduction by David Revere McFadden, edited by Marian Cohn. Ect. Ect. The Iconoclastic Museum Press/219 pp./price unavailable (hb).

Historia, Memoria y Silencios, by Lorena Guillen Vaschetti. Schilt Publishing/unpaginated/$45.00 (hb).

Word is Out, by Greg Youmans. Arsenal Pulp Press/189 pp./$14.95 (sb).

Zero Patience, by Susan Knabe and Wendy Gay Pearson. Arsenal Pulp Press/181 pp./$14.95 (sb).

[/DDET]

ARTIST’S BOOKS [DDET (+)]

A Dialogue in Useful Phrases, by Elisabeth Tonnard. Self-published/unpaginated/$55.10 (sb).

Enduring Freedom: The Poetry of the President, by Elisabeth Tonnard. Self-published/13 pp./$23.60 (sb).

The Story of a Young Gentleman, by Elisabeth Tonnard. Self-published/unpaginated/$45.90 (sb).

[/DDET]EXHIBITION CATALOGS [DDET (+)]

In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States, edited by Ilene Susan Fort, Tere Arcq, and Terri Geis; contributions by Dawn Ades, Maria Elena Buszek, Whitney Chadwick, et al. Published in conjunction with the exhibition of the same name at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California, Jan. 29–May 6, 2012, Musée National des Beux-Arts du Quebec, June 7–Sept. 3, 2012; and Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City, Sept. 27, 2012–Jan. 13, 2013. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Prestel Publishing/254 pp./$60.00 (hb).

Decadence Now!: Visions of Excess, curated by Otto M. Urban. Published in conjunction with the exhibition of the same name at Galerie Rudolfinum, Sept. 30, 2010–Jan. 2, 2011, Prague, Czech Republic. Arbor Vitae Publishers/unpaginated/$65.00 (hb).

Light Years: Conceptual Art and the Photograph, 1964–1977, edited by Matthew S. Witkovsky; essays by Mark Godfrey, Robin Kelsey, Anne Rorimer, Allen Ruppersberg, Giuliano Sergio, et. al. Published in conjunction with the exhibition of the same name at the Art Institute of Chicago, Dec. 13, 2011–March 11, 2012. The Art Institute of Chicago and Yale University Press/264 pp./$60.00 (hb).

Mona Hatoum, by Mona Hatoum. Published in conjunction with the exhibition of the same name at Sammlung Goetz, Munich, Germany, Nov. 21, 2011–April 5, 2012. Sammlung Goetz and Hatje Cantz Vertag/99 pp./$39.48 (hb).

Some Aesthetic Decisions: The Photographs of Judy Fiskin, curated by Virginia Heckert. Published in conjunction with the exhibition “In Focus: Los Angeles, 1945–1980,” Dec. 20, 2011–May 6, 2012 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Getty Publications/359 pp./$50.00 (hb).

Tacita Dean: FILM, by Tacita Dean, edited by Nicholas Cullinan. Published in conjunction with the exhibition of the same name at the Tate Modern, London. Oct. 11, 2011–March 11, 2012. Tate Publishing/143 pp./$18.20 (sb).

TransLife: International Triennial of New Media Art, edited by Fan Di’an and Zhang Ga. Published in conjunction with the exhibition of the same name at the National Art Museum of China, Beijing. July 26–Aug. 17, 2011. The National Art Museum of China and Liverpool University Press/302 pp./$59.95 (sb).

TruthBeauty: Pictorialism and the Photograph as Art, 1845–1945, curated by Alison Nordstrom, edited by Thomas Padon. Published in conjunction with the exhibition of the same name at Vancouver Art Gallery, Feb. 2–April 27, 2008. Vancouver Art Gallery, Douglas & McIntyre, and George Eastman House/160 pp./$60.00 (hb).

[/DDET]

DVDS [DDET (+)]

The Purity Myth: The Virginity Movement’s War Against Women, Media Education Foundation/45 min./$125.00–250.00.

[/DDET]

FROM THE ISSUE

Current Issue, Vol. 44, no. 5

PORTFOLIO
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exogenesis (2015) by Angelina Voskopoulou

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Of the Appalachian Diaspora Text by Stephen J. Quigley
Photographs by April L. O'Brien


Outside My Outdoor Shower There Is a Carnival Text by Lisa Annelouise Rentz
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