Afterimage Vol. 41, no. 6


51st Society for Photographic Education National Conference

Kitty Hubbard & Karen vanMeenen

The Oxford English Dictionary provides multiple definitions of the words collaborate, exchange, photography, and dialogue. The first are predictable: collaborate, meaning to cooperate, as in united labor; exchange, the action of reciprocal giving and receiving; photograph, a picture made by a camera; and dialogue, a conversation. These capture the themes of this year’s Society for Photographic Education (SPE) conference, “Collaborative Exchanges: Photography in Dialogue.” Collaboration was in evidence between people, communities, and artists; there was giving and receiving through panels, presentations, and copious side conversations—all about pictures—carried on between two or more people….

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I Caught a Rattlesnake: a Conversation with Suko Presseau

Harry J. Weil

I edited much of this interview with Suko Presseau after reading Michael Pollan’s essay “Why Cook?,” which details how Americans increasingly prefer quick and easy pre-prepared meals. Despite the pervasiveness of celebrity chefs (as well as their cookbooks, cookware, and other product endorsements) and cable networks dedicated solely to cooking, trends show that more and more families are abandoning their kitchens. Sensitive to how eating remains one of the last opportunities in modern society to “declare our independence from the corporations seeking to organize our every waking moment into yet another occasion for consumption,” Pollan adamantly rejects the notion that “production is work best done by someone else.” It was serendipitous…

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A Brief and Incomplete History of Art and Technology Ventures in the Bay Area 1980–2010

Anuradha Vikram

Recently, artists and technology workers in San Francisco have been at one another’s throats. The flash point is often identified as the Google Bus, a private shuttle ferrying tech commuters from the city to the Silicon Valley suburbs that has sparked protests and disruptions by social justice advocates, including many artists and creative workers. The opposition to these buses stems from a public perception of tech industry decision-makers as privateers whose disproportionate political and economic influence in San Francisco is the source of cuts in services for the neediest and more amenities for the wealthiest….

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Image, Author, Failure, Chance: A Conversation with Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin

Rachel Somerstein

An often-cited origin story pervading Western culture goes something like this: Abraham’s father, Terah, runs a shop that sells idols. While his father is away, Abraham, persuaded of the falsehood of idolworship, smashes all but the largest idol, then places the club in the idol’s hands. Terah returns and, seeing the broken statues, asks, “What happened?”; Abraham responds, “Isn’t it clear? Your idol destroyed all the others.” To which Terah replies, “It was you who broke the idols; my idol couldn’t have done this.” Says Abraham: “So you admit it; your idols can do nothing…”

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Exhibition Reviews

beyond earth art: contemporary artists and the environment

Alicia Inez Guzmán

Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York
January 25–June 8, 2014

In February 1969, Willoughby Sharp, an independent curator, publisher, and artist, curated Earth Art at Cornell’s Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art. Initially conceived as part of Sharp’s planned series of exhibitions devoted to the natural elements— air, earth, fire, and water—Earth Art was groundbreaking as one of the first major American university exhibitions dedicated to the production and display of land art.1 Tapping into a significant shift taking place in the art world since the early 1960s, the exhibition foregrounded dislocation: the transfer of art production and presentation to sites outside of the artist’s studio and the gallerist’s white cube. As critic Craig Owens wrote, viewers no longer encountered art physically, given inaccessibility or ephemerality, but through other modes such as photography, cinema, and text….

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What Is a Photograph?

Tim Maul

International Center of Photography
New York City
January  31–May 4, 2014

The ultra-mercantile art or photography fair has contributed to the spectacularization of the photographic print and the promotion of novelty, all of which may feel carnivalesque to those of a certain age. Not long ago, visual artists who worked with cameras imagined a future when the hot potato “Is it art or photography?” inquiry was irrelevant and the emerging market favored all pictures equally. That future is here, as demonstrated by What Is a Photograph?, curated by Carol Squiers at the International Center of Photography (ICP). This exhibition follows on the heels of MOMA’s XL: New Acquisitions in Photography (2013–14), which signaled a shift both curatorial and aesthetic for that institution, in demonstrating that contemporary photography functions as a gateway drug to engagements once unique to performance, installation, various tendencies in collage, and even Fluxus assemblage. After viewing What Is a Photograph?, one answer to Squiers’s question may be: “a flat nonrepresentational image or picture that resembles a painting…”

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Brian Ulrich: Copia—Retail, Thrift, and Dark Stores, 2001—2011

Kelly Kirshtner

Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
January 22–May 18, 2014

Brian Ulrich’s retrospective exhibition Copia—Retail, Thrift, and Dark Stores, 2001–2011 offers a nuanced portrayal of American consumer culture in large-format photographs of shoppers, goods, and commercial spaces. The pictures resound with wit, artifacts of desire and disenfranchisement, and no small amount of fear. After all, Copia (Latin for “plenty”) began as an investigation of consumer behavior in the economic turmoil following 9/11, and continued through collapses in the housing, real estate, and financial markets over the ensuing decade. Viewed as a whole, the project offers a sustained exploration and critique of consumerism deeply invested in its historical moment, with all of the desperation and hope this entails….

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There Will Never Be Silence: Scoring John Cage’s 4’33”

Liz Park

Museum of Modern Art
New York City
October 12, 2013–June 22, 2014

At the heart of the exhibition There Will Never be Silence: Scoring John Cage’s 4’33” at the Museum of Modern Art is the earliest surviving score of the infamous composition for any instrument or combination of instruments, in which the player strikes no note for the titular duration. The original score that David Tudor performed on piano in Woodstock, New York, in 1952 no longer exists. The one on display is an elegant folio of merely three sheets, created for and gifted to the artist and psychologist Irwin Kremen for his birthday in 1953. Long vertical black lines scrawled on blank pages with three sets of numbers—30″, 2’23”, and 1’40” for the three movements—stood in for the groundbreaking performance that so incited and enraged the audience. How can a line on a piece of paper evoke the swirl of controversy and heated discussions of the status of art that ensued following the premier of 4’33”? How to represent silence? How to talk about nothing? Cage famously began a lecture thus, “I have nothing to say and I am saying it…”

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Jananne Al-Ani: Excavations

Harriet Riches

Hayward Gallery Project Space, Southbank Centre
London, UK
March 5–May 11, 2014

Drawn from her ongoing project The Aesthetics of Disappearance: A Land Without People, Jananne Al-Ani’s Excavations focused on the relationship of the apparently empty landscapes of the Middle Eas t to the region’s history of conflict. For Iraqi-born Al-Ani, the camera is key in telling this story, as it was the Western media’s representation of the first Gulf War that crystallized her interest in the relationship between photography and technologies of military surveillance. By using the camera to scan those spaces in which victims of war have disappeared, the topography of the desert is subject ed to photographic scrutiny in a way that brings together a diverse set of institutional practices….

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Ruffneck Constructivists

Marcus Civin

Institute of Contemporary Art
University of Pennsylvania
February 12–August 17, 2014

Not exhibited in Ruffneck Constructivists, the video for MC Lyte’s 1993 rap hit single, Ruffneck, directed by Pamela Birkhead (3:42 minutes), shot in and around a rundown warehouse in Brooklyn, is searchable in the archive at MC Lyte wears baggy clothes and boots. She dances, gestures wide with her arms for emphasis, celebrates the sexy tough guys who come when she calls. Here are some of the lyrics:

Evil grin with a mouth full of gold teeth / Startin’ beef is how he spells relief / Actin’ like he don’t care / When all I gotta do is beep him 911 and he’ll be there / Right by my side with his ruffneck tactics / Ruffneck attitude, the ruffneck bastard…

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Congregation by KMA (Kit Monkman and Tom Wexler)

Jen Saffron

Market Square
February 21–March 16, 2014

Over the past decade or so, with the creation and advancements of YouTube, Vimeo, and Vine, video has managed to embed itself into our daily lives through social media posts, forwarded emails, and our phones. Even within the more self-selecting fine art scenes, gallery-goers find themselves venturing into smallish, darkened rooms, plopping down on benches, and taking in video. While we can look to earlier video art by seminal artists such as Peter Campus or Nam June Paik to witness artists forging experimental relationships between video art and performance, most interactive video has been experienced in the controlled spaces of museums by and for the art world, not in the gritty public spaces of the hoi polloi…

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Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video

Jody B. Cutler

Solomon Guggenheim Museum
New York City
January 24–May 14, 2014

Carrie Mae Weems: The Museum Series

Studio Museum in Harlem
New York City
January 30–June 29, 2014

Over the past two decades, Carrie Mae Weems has become widely recognized for her poetic twist on documentary aesthetics in photographic explorations of personal history, African American female experience, and the African diaspora. Her two-year travelling retrospective, organized by the Frist Center for the Visual Arts (Nashville) and ending at the Guggenheim, illuminated a strong formal and thematic continuity in her oeuvre to the present, and offered a chance to view her best-known individual images in their original serial contexts…

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Book Review

Provocative Alloys: A Post-Media Anthology, edited by Clemens Apprich, Josephine Berry Slater, Anthony Iles, and Oliver Lerone Schultz

Jay Murphy

Mute Books in association with Post-Media Lab Books, 2013
160 pp./$19.99 (sb)

In this period of vast expansion and equally great confusion in media studies—with talk of “evil media,” “anti-media” or, in Alexander R. Galloway, Eugene Thacker, and McKenzie Wark’s Excommunication: Three Inquiries in Media and Mediation (2014), of mediation refused or withdrawn or beyond reach, hence Thacker’s “dark media”—London’s Mute magazine partnered with the experimental media and net labs of the Centre for Digital Cultures of Leuphana University in Lüneburg, Germany, to produce Provocative Alloys, issuing from the two-year life of the Post-Media Lab in Lüneburg….

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Online Features

PPWC-4 Divine Pleasure by Aaron MacLachlan (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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