Afterimage Vol. 41, no. 5


Identity Crisis in the Eternal City: Finding a Raison d’Être for Rome’s New Photography Museum

Luisa Grigoletto

After years of talk, Rome appears ready to launch its first photography museum. To many, the
ambitious plan marks the latest step in the artistic coming-of-age of the Eternal City, eager to be taken as seriously for its present and future as it is for its glorious past. But Italy’s recent history of flawed museum openings should serve as a warning. If organizers fail to overcome an apparent lack of vision, staggering red tape, and austerity cuts to the arts, the photography museum is destined to become the latest victim in this Roman tragedy…

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Skin Matters: A Conversation with June Yong Lee

Tina Takemoto

South Korean-born artist June Yong Lee produces lush monochromatic photographs of human skin as flesh without bones. For each image in his Torso Series (2008–present), Lee presents the entire surface of a larger-than-life-size torso splayed out horizontally. An invisible line from sternum to navel roughly forms the central axis of each photograph. Working from the center and moving outward around the body, the artist meticulously fuses together numerous digital images until a 360-degree view of each torso appears as if unfurled onto a single plane of vision…

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The Reveal: A Conversation with Adie Russell

Harry J. Weil

After interviewing Adie Russell, I had over two hours of recording to transcribe and whittle down to a mere three thousand words. In passing, toward the very end of our conversation, she made a seemingly simple, yet poignant, remark on the creative process: “The magical thing about art is the connection that it makes with viewers.” I left it out of the earlier drafts for what would eventually be printed here, but found that I couldn’t let go of her sentiment so easily. The word “magical” conveys the sense of an inherent charm, something hard to put into words, and far better experienced than it is explained…

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Exhibition Reviews

Distant Images, Local Positions

Sabrina DeTurk

EFA Project Space
New York City
January 24–March 8, 2014

It is perhaps unsurprising that an artist whose own work continually engages issues of migration, place, surveillance, and geopolitics should curate an exhibition featuring nine artists whose own work reflects similar concerns. In Distant Images, Local Positions, Wafaa Bilal creates a space for an aesthetic dialogue between artists whose work in varied media is shaped by a common concern with the role of geography and landscape as mediating factors in our understanding of a contemporary culture of surveillance, mass media, and the significance of place…

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The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology

Janina Clezadlo

Museum of Contemporary Art
November 9, 2013–March 9, 2014,

Curator Dieter Roelstraete has shifted the ideas he formulated in an article entitled “The Way of the Shovel: On the Archaeological Imaginary in Art,” published in e-flux in the spring of 2009, into a wide-ranging exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. The exhibit proceeds from the conceit that art has become archeological, mining the past in a panoply of forms, and historical, bringing archival materials to light—“digging up the past,” as Roelstraete has it.

The exhibition and the stylistically innovative catalog are largely interdependent. Text, super text, and dialogues in varying type styles and sizes, including the curator’s “Field Notes” and a smart selection of essays, delve into the complicated interplay of roles—archeologist, archivist, ethnographer, and curator—that artists have assumed or interrogate…

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Robert Burley: The Disappearance of Darkness

Steph Rogerson

Ryerson Image Centre
January 22–April 13, 2014

Robert Burley’s exhibition The Disappearance of Darkness is an exquisite photographic confirmation of a dying technology. The series of work considers analog photography and the massive architecture that housed its production as coming to a close. And, with it, we say goodbye to an archetype of the industrial age.
Shot on large-format 4 x 5 film and digitally printed, Burley’s photographs are superb. Frayed carpets, abandoned cardigans of workers, and empty workspaces appear so close that one can imagine unraveling the carpet seam or slipping on the dingy sweater. The artist has an uncanny knack for making abject industrial spaces all too human. There is warmth that teeters on sympathy in these images. Burley not only records the disappearance of analog photography, but also chronicles his own relationship to the technology, creating a visceral and sensory experience…

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Visibility Machines: Harun Farocki and Trevor Paglen

Marcus Civin

Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture
University of Maryland
October 2, 2013–February 22, 2014

At University of Maryland, Baltimore County, three videos by German artist Harun Farocki, and twelve works—mostly color photographs—by American artist Trevor Paglen, were cool, calculated, and highly crafted. The gallery was dark, except for the photographs and videos. Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” looped into the gallery, overheard from Farocki’s video Eye/Machine III (2003). This morbid and, by now, ironically triumphalist refrain underscored the hard-boiled mood of the exhibition as a whole. War, here, is a proving ground, testing morality and experimental technologies. What people are, they become more so in war. What people accept in war (a level of being watched, for instance) remains—people get used to it.
In his curatorial wall

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Matt Lipps: Library

Jody Zellen

Marc Selwyn Fine Art
Los Angeles, CA
November 9–December 22, 2013

Matt Lipps destroys in order to create. In Library, he begins by culling through the Life Library of Photography, a seventeen-volume set published by Time-Life Books between 1970 and 1972. Lipps carefully selected images from this vast archive, cutting out the black-and-white reproductions of cameras and individual photographic artworks. The books in the Library of Photography series were designed to instruct non-artists on how to make good photographs, while simultaneously outlining the history of photography. In many ways, Lipps’s work is the antithesis of what the Library of Photography presents. Rather than showing a linear history or a trajectory of how to get from A to B, Lipps takes bits and pieces from the different volumes and reassembles them to form idiosyncratic narratives about photography. Though each of Lipps’s eleven works is titled after a subject covered in the books—travel, photojournalism, or nature, for example—they are not didactic illustrations. His juxtapositions are often based on visual relationships and become poignant commentaries that are simultaneously witty and uncanny…

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Book Reviews

Tales from the City of Gold by Jason Larkin

George Slade

Kehrer, 2013
96 pp./$50.00 (sb)

The square frame has never been very hospitable to landscape photographers. That rigid geometry, with its insistence on equal sides and right angles, renders the image neutral and static; yet humans are more receptive to images that move the eye into and around a pictured space, scanning a horizon or tilting up and down a vertical prominence. In contemporary printer parlance, neither “landscape” nor “portrait” orientation characterizes the square. A maker must contend with the frame as a picture plane, since the content is rendered immobile—firmly balanced, literally “squared up”—except when astute graphics create vectors or natural behavior mobilizes the subject matter (wind blows grasses, a river flows, snow slides, etc.)…

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Moving without a Body: Digital Philosophy and Choreographic Thoughts by Stamatia Portanova

Jay Murphy

MIT Pres, 2013
179 pp./$30.95 (hb)

Stamatia Portanova has taken what would be a bare technical datum for many—the digitalization through various means of choreography and dance performance— and used it as a wide-ranging platform for a rethinking of nearly all the terms involved with any digital philosophy. What is at stake for Portanova is nothing less than a renewed philosophy of movement and overcoming of mind/ body dualism that continues to crop up in interpretations of dance and the digital. Interrogating the early history of cinema with Loie Fuller and Dziga Vertov as well as iconic and digitally enabled dance breakthroughs by Merce Cunningham, Bill T. Jones, and William Forsythe, Portanova reveals how aesthetic and post-aesthetic practices, in conjunction with digital technologies, can help us reexamine and sometimes revise a long philosophical history of movement…

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Film Review

Let the Fire Burn by Jason Osder

Liz Park

Zeitgeist Films/2013/88 min.

Composed entirely of archival footage, Jason Osder’s Let the Fire Burn looks at the events surrounding the destruction of a neighborhood and the suppression of an activist movement in Philadelphia in 1985. The film begins with a clip from the video deposition given by a boy named Birdie Africa, one of only two survivors of the bombing of MOVE headquarters. Founded in 1972 by John Africa, MOVE is a black political group that espouses a back-to-the-land style of communal living and militant anti-authoritarian political views. On May 13, 1985, in response to mounting tension between Philadelphia police and MOVE, police launched a massive operation, firing ten thousand rounds of ammunition into the group’s home and dropping an incendiary bomb that not only destroyed the targeted rowhouse, but set ablaze an entire city block of more than sixty houses…

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Online Features

the most extreme perfect that exists by Adie Russell (video)

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Young, at Work in the Fields by David Bacon (portfolio)

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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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