Afterimage Vol. 42, no.2

AI_42_2_Cover
Reports

Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival

Cynthia Foo

Toronto
MAY 1–31, 2014

In its eighteenth year, Toronto’s annual CONTACT festival has grown to become one of the world’s largest photography shows. As much as the festival offered something for everyone, CONTACT’s current burnished incarnation served up few surprises or thrills of discovery. This year’s festival theme of (the construction of) “identity” also did little to frame or unify the widely disparate artworks on display.

Spread across almost two hundred venues throughout the city, exhibitions ranged from a public installation of expanded full-length, full-color portraits hanging on bustling King Street, to photographic prints opaquely paying homage to Josef Albers and Sol LeWitt installed in an out-of-the-way gallery. As expected, CONTACT also featured portfolio reviews with gallerists, a “how to” on curating and collecting photographs for the private collector, and dozens of events ranging from opening parties and after-parties to public talks by curators and artists. High-profile corporate prizes, such as the Scotiabank Photography Award (valued at CAD$50,000) and the much less lucrative BMW Exhibition Prize (worth CAD$5,000) rounded out the festival’s offerings…

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Essays & Features

In and Out of the Biennale: Transfield, Mandatory Detention, and the Biennale of Sydney

Zanny Begg & Ahmet Öğüt

The 19th Biennale of Sydney (BoS): You Imagine What You Desire, opened on March 21, 2014. By that time, the festival had already been overshadowed by weeks of controversy over its founding sponsor Transfield, an Australia-based multinational corporation that recently secured an AUD$1.22 billion contract for operations on its Manus Island (Papua New Guinea) and Nauru immigration detention centers. Since 1992 Australia has had a policy, supported by both major parties, of mandatory detention of refugees. Since July 2013 any refugee who arrives in Australia by boat is automatically refused settlement, instead being sent to offshore detention centers for possible settlement in Papua New Guinea. Those in mandatory detention face an indefinite, sometimes years long, wait for their asylum claims to be processed. The conditions in detention centers are so inhumane many have argued their sole purpose is deterrence—attempting to create an environment worse than the traumatic situations refugees are fleeing…

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A Landscape of Tragedy: New Debates in Alfredo Jaar’s “Politics of Images”

Kathleen MacQueen

A little-known work by the Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar—Faces, from 1982—was exhibited for the first time during the artist’s Berlin retrospective in 2012 and again this year to accompany the premiere of Shadows at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Museum of Art. In Faces, Jaar pairs newspaper clippings with a single face, extracted from the crowd and enlarged, to “rescue it”—he claims—from anonymity and oblivion. This concept of rescue—a kind of reframing of the content within a new context—also applies to what the artist intends as a trilogy of works, each dedicated to a single image. The first was The Sound of Silence (2006) in which the artist rescued a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph from controversy and reclaimed its significance as a “signal of distress…”

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Way West: A Conversation with Rick Dingus

Peter Briggs: You have said that you look at and try to determine what the “vocabulary” is for a particular subject or image. What do you mean by that?

Rick Dingus: I respond to visible features in common situations and examine how they suggest various kinds of readings. I think about details as manifestations of natural processes and cultural evolution, and as potential evidence about natural history and the choices and actions of people. I am always looking for places with unexpected elements that cause me to reconsider what I think I know. I plan to make photographs that pose questions rather than confirm assumptions…

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Exhibition Reviews

Millie Chen: Tour

Liz Flyntz

Albright-Knox Gallery
Buffalo
January 30–May 18, 2014

Millie Chen’s Tour was presented in the Albright-Knox’s Gallery for New Media, a small black box screening room with surround sound and a projection wall. The multimedia installation was comprised of four movements presented in a loop, each documenting the artist’s visit to a particular site of historical genocide. Handheld footage of the locations segues seamlessly from one to the other in the film, interspersed with unobtrusive titling presenting the location’s name and the date of the genocidal event: Murambi, Rwanda (April 16–22, 1994); Choeung Ek, Cambodia (April 17, 1975–January 7, 1979); Treblinka, Poland (July 23, 1942–October 19, 1943); and Wounded Knee, USA (December 29, 1890)…

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kate hers RHEE

Samuel Adams

Berlinische Galerie
Berlin
April 30–May 26, 2014

Upon entering the IBB-Videolounge at the Berlinische Galerie, I was greeted by a close-up of a woman’s mouth, barking German racial slurs. One sees only the performer’s lips and subtitles accompanying her utterances. The speech is clear, deliberate, and detached from its content. After being the victim of numerous racially oriented verbal attacks in Berlin, artist kate hers RHEE began researching derogatory German expressions. The eventual result was Ach du heilige Scheiβe! (Oh holy shit!) (2012), a poem composed entirely of German insults… Read now>

Ruin Lust

Harriet Riches

Tate Britain
London, UK
March 4–May 18, 2014

Emanating from the heart of the exhibition, the whirring and clanking noises of the increasingly redundant machines featured in Tacita Dean’s 2006 film Kodak dominated the experience of Ruin Lust at Tate Britain. Filmed at Kodak’s Chalon-sur-Saône factory, and recorded on some of the last remaining stock of 16mm produced by the company, Kodak’s self-reflexive focus on a dying medium laid to waste by digitization constructed the central theme of the “ruin” in both modernist, and distinctly photographic, terms…

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Maria Rapicavoli: A Cielo Aperto

Liz Park

International Studio & Curatorial Program
New York City
February 27–April 8, 2014

A Cielo Aperto (An Open Sky) was the title of Sicilian artist Maria Rapicavoli’s solo exhibition at the International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP), where she was chosen to present a body of work that she developed while in residence between January and June 2014. The two countries she straddles, Italy and the United States, and their military collusion, in particular, provided fodder for this new project…

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Moyra Davey: Burn the Diaries

Alison Frank

Mumok
Vienna
February 21–May 25, 2014

Burn the Diaries, Moyra Davey’s first solo exhibition in Austria, took place at MUMOK (Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien), Vienna’s modern art museum. Davey created several new works for the occasion: a thirty-minute film, an installation of photography, and an artist’s book.

The film, My Saints (2014), is a reflection on the work of French author Jean Genet and, in p articular, his semi-autobiographical and philosophical novel The Thief’s Journal (Journal du voleur, 1949). My Saints is structured through brief interviews, mainly with young people. Davey asks them for their reaction to an episode in Genet’s novel in which the narrator steals money from another man and then watches dispassionately as the man searches frantically for the missing bills…

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Lucy Raven: On Location / Lucy Raven: Curtains

Noa Bronstein

Lucy Raven: On Location
Jackman Hall
Toronto
April 13, 2014

Lucy Raven: Curtains
Interaccess Electronic Media Arts Center
Toronto
April 12–May24, 2014

Presented as part of Toronto’s Images Festival, Lucy Raven’s most recent works On Location (2014) and Curtains (2014–present) offer meditations on labor, technology, and globalization. On Location, an illustrated lecture, which is part stream of consciousness, part field paper, and part experiment, opens with a clip of the Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes cartoon characters Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote giving chase, as they do. From here Raven introduces, somewhat comically, a hurried John Cusack, racing through an imploding Los Angeles, meagerly attempting to escape an urban edifice that is persistently collapsing into a spectral abyss…

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Outtakes

Robert Raczka

Carnegie Museum of Art
Pittsburgh
May 7–September 1, 2014

As in many other institutions, in recent decades there has been a rise in the presence of photography, film, and video within the Carnegie Museum of Art, including the acquisition of photographers’ archives, the addition of a full-time curator of photography, greater inclusion in exhibitions and the collection, and the recent launching of the multiyear Hillman Photography Initiative.1 And while large-scale professionally curated surveys and retrospectives will no doubt continue to provide the lion’s share of the museum’s programming, a greater variety of exhibits have recently been presented, including: Oh Snap!, in which photographs from the museum’s collection were displayed along with hundreds of photographs museum visitors submitted in response to those works…

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Book Reviews

The Archival Turn in Feminism: Outrage in Order, By Kate Eichhorn

Joanna Gardner-Huggett

Temple University Press, 2013
188 pp./$69.50 (hb)/$27.95 (sb)

The “archive” has become omnipresent in visual art practice, featuring prominently in the recent Whitney Biennial. Julie Ault’s installation, for example, juxtaposed works by David Wojnarowicz and Martin Wong with ephemera held in the Downtown Collection of New York University’s Fales Library. Rather than concentrate on the archives of current artworld luminaries, Kate Eichhorn’s The Archival Turn in Feminism: Outrage in Order focuses on Riot Grrrl collections held at Duke University, New York University, and Barnard College. Nevertheless, Eichhorn’s theoretical evaluation of how institutional archives can operate as radical networks is essential reading for anyone who engages with the historical past as a mode to stage interventions in the present…

 

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Unsettled/Desasosiego: Children in a World of Gangs, Photographs by Donna De Cesare

David Bacon

University of Texas Press, 2013
164 pp./$65.00 (hb)

Today the tattooed faces and bodies of Salvadoran gang members are put on display for readers of US and European newspapers and magazines in much the same way that images of tattooed indigenous people in New Guinea were used to titillate readers of National Geographic at the dawn of photography more than a century ago.

Young Salvadorans are pictured behind bars or with guns, just as people labeled “savages” were once posed with spears. This is the dehumanization of the indigenous. Even the language accompanying the images carries the same flavor of the exotic, the dangerous, and the “other”—something to frighten comfortable middle-class viewers with what seems an inside look at an alien and violent world…

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Excommunication: Three Inquiries in Media and Mediation, by Alexander R. Galloway, Eugene Thacker, and McKenzie Wark

Jay Murphy

University of Chicago Press, 2014
210 pp./$22.50 (sb)

With Excommunication: Three Inquiries in Media and Mediation, in three single-authored yet closely connected essays, Alexander Galloway, Eugene Thacker, and McKenzie Wark set themselves an extremely ambitious task—to assess, resituate, and contribute to a definition and revision of the never-more-nebulous- than-now realm of media theory. In this enterprise of speculative theorization, the three authors appeal in large part to the Greek myths—of Hermes, of Iris, and of the Furies—forsaking to some extent the more empirically inflected studies they accomplished in the past..

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Media Noted

Anthony McCall: 1970s Works on Paper

Patrick Friel

Walther König/2014/304 pp./$85.00 (hb)

Anthony McCall graduated art school in 1968 and produced a varied and remarkable body of work for roughly a decade, until 1979. Then he stopped; nearly twenty-five years would go by before he returned to an artmaking practice in 2002. In the intervening years, some of his work fell out of art historical consciousness, while other works, such as his “solid light” films/installations (especially Line Describing a Cone from 1973), became reified as part of the avant-garde canon. McCall’s works from that fruitful 1970s decade have been generating new interest since his return, and this new publication helps to fill in gaps and provide an oblique (and, in many cases, the only) way of exploring an artistic output whose works are largely marked by a lack of fixity in time or sp ace— ephemeral works of performance, installation, and cinema that are not object-bound…

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The Chinese American Diaspora on American Screens: Race, Sex, and Cinema by Gina Marchetti

Valerie Soe

Temple University Press/2012/258 pp./$79.50 (hb)

Gina Marchetti’s recent collection of essays, The Chinese American Diaspora on American Screens: Race, Sex, and Cinema, continues her wide-ranging scholarship on Asian and Asian American film. The book moves across a diversity of topics, including films by Hong Kong movie stars Jackie Chan and Jet Li; independent films from the United States such as The Wedding Banquet and Shopping For Fangs; and experimental videos by Yvonne Welbon, Richard Fung, Ming-Yuen S. Ma, and Kip Fulbeck…

Online Features

Exhibition Review: kate hers RHEE

Read this review now!

Portfolio: Windows From Prison, by Mark Strandquist

View this portfolio now!

 

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