Afterimage Vol. 42, No. 3


Essays & Features

Out of the Maze: The Preservation and Censorship of Johnny Minotaur, a Queer Cinema Classic

Kyle Harris

Decked out in horn-rimmed glasses, a skin-tight black dress, and Bettie Page bangs with long, dyed red hair, MM Serra, director of the New American Cinema Group (the Film-Makers’ Cooperative), paces at the front of a sparsely filled movie theater at the Sie FilmCenter in Denver, Colorado, where she nervously introduces the US premiere of the restored print of Charles Henri Ford’s 1971 film Johnny Minotaur, and lectures the audience about the film’s recent history of censorship.

Johnny Minotaur plays. It is a diary film wavering between high theory, Jungian imagery, and bawdy lust. The voices of experimental filmmaker Warren Sonbert, surrealist painter Salvador Dalí, and poet Allen Ginsberg accompany a nonlinear story about the making of a film about the Minotaur myth….

Click here to watch a video supplement: Ronnie Burk visits Charles Henri Ford in NYC

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Draw a line. Erase the line: ieke Trinks in Question

Bernard Roddy

Two works completed over the past year by the Rotterdam artist ieke Trinks offer occasions for sounding out the meaning of participation, collaboration, or cooperation in contemporary media art. I refer to meetings (Chicago, September 2013) and Call for Participants (’s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, June 2014). In what follows I will consider the significance of these works in terms of method, by which I mean a certain kind of questioning. There will be a good deal more to say about this, but we will look to Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger and go by way of the Materialfilme series (Materialfilms) of Wilhelm and Birgit Hein (1968–76), as well as the classified ad and the home doorbell…

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The Imaginary Landscape: A Conversation with Patty Chang and David Kelley

Marcus Civin

This past June I spent three days in Boston with David Kelley and Patty Chang at their home. We went to their neighborhood spots in Dorchester; ate fish and mountains of vegetables; and discussed sculpture, film, painting, propaganda, acting, engineering, family, empathy, and globalization. Sometimes I would switch on a voice recorder. After my visit, we continued our conversation over email. Flotsam Jetsam (2007), a half-hour film and a series of related photographs, was recently on view at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)…

Click here to watch a clip from Flotsam Jetsam and read an excerpt of the interview

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Nam June Paik: The Photograph as Active Circuit

Alison Weaver

After working secretly in his studio for several weeks, Nam June Paik (1932–2006) opened his first solo exhibition, titled Exposition of Music–Electronic Television, at the Galerie Parnass in Wuppertal, Germany, on March 11, 1963. The exhibition covered sixteen rooms throughout the house of art dealer Rolf Jährling, owner of Galerie Parnass. Exploring the dual themes of music and television, the exhibition featured Fluxus-inspired objects such as prepared pianos, sound objects, and tiered record players, as well as room-sized installations inviting visitor interaction. In a work titled Random Access, for example, a visitor “plays” unspooled audiotape through a handheld sound device. An installation photo taken by Jährling of the television room is perhaps the most well known. It features three black-and-white television sets scattered at various angles around the floor of a large room. The sets are individually manipulated so their screens display distorted, abstract images. Paik is seen leaving the dimly lit room, walking toward a glowing hallway, hands casually in his pockets….

Click here to view a video supplement: TV Bra for Living Sculpture (1969) and Chamber Music (1969), by Nam June Paik and Charlotte Moorman

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Exhibition Reviews

Phantoms in the Dirt

Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College
July 24–October 5, 2014

SooJin Lee

Navigating a dense downtown like Chicago’s, lined with skyscrapers and boulevards, it is strange but also refreshing to enter a museum with photographs of dirt and water on the walls and rusty metal and wood objects on the floor. The exhibition Phantoms in the Dirt, at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, may at first have appeared difficult to grasp because of the general unspectacular appearance of the artworks presented, but there was also something unsettling and arresting about them that compelled visitors to want to stay and look closely into each work. And a closer look revealed that these are not simple or straightforward presentations of landscapes or found objects. The exhibition of works by sixteen artists attested to the variety of methods and capacities of photography, while also exploring the uncanny materiality of the familiar objects and scenes surrounding us. They bring to mind—and extend—the magical status of photography, particularly prevalent in early discourses on photography of the mid-nineteenth century that marveled at the new invention, often believing it could capture and reveal apparitions. The exhibition title itself hinted at photography’s association with magic and necromancy…

Louise Lawler: No Drones

Sprüth Magers
London, UK
July 2–August 22, 2014

Harriet Riches

As with much of the photography produced over her career, Louise Lawler’s concern for not what we see, but the cultural framing devices that dictate how we see, was clear in this small exhibition of recent work. In particular, her use of modernist artworks and their various social and political contexts remained the source of her subject matter. Even before entering the gallery, the vast scale of Pollock and Tureen (traced) (1984/2013) was visible through the gallery windows. As with all the works on show, this was traced from one of her own existing photos: made in collaboration with illustrator Jon Buller, these spare, black-line “tracings” were then converted into vector graphics capable of being expanded or reduced in scale in individual response to the eventual site of display, printed out in sticky-backed vinyl and applied directly to the gallery wall…

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Jim Campbell: Rhythms of Perception

Museum of the Moving Image
New York City
March 21–June 15, 2014

Jim Campbell

Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery
New York City
March 7–April 19, 2014

Alonzo King LINES Ballet’s Constellation with mezzo-soprano Maya Lahyani and electronic artist Jim Campbell

The Joyce Theater
New York City
March 18–23, 2014

Jay Murphy

Jim Campbell has been working for three decades now, first as a filmmaker, then with interactive video installations (in the mid- 1980s) and beginning, in 1999, a series of experiments with LEDs (light emitting diodes). Best known for his LED installations, sometimes deceptively simple in effect, Campbell weaves immersive sculptural light environments that synthesize and recombine perception, presence, and the movement of bodies, sparking awareness of time in relation to space and light and identifiable objects. Viewers this spring in New York City had the opportunity to consider the full development—from the early works and their stark personal motivation that moved and morphed into larger, more complex fields (at the Museum of the Moving Image [MoMI]), to his most recent LED works (at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery and with the Alonzo King LINES Ballet). While still playing on dynamics of proximity and distance, triggered by home movies or the most quotidian details and bodily gestures captured on low-res video, Campbell’s later works emerge into a full-fledged material abstraction of interplay. These works, Campbell has explained, “hover on the edge of abstraction, re-abstraction and representation,” and have the advantage of showing the mediation and melding of perception, gesture, or perceptual level in the movement through or composition of the world…

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The Photographic Object, 1970

Hauser & Wirth
New York City
June 26–July 25, 2014

Tim Maul

Victoria’s View With Razor (1971), at the gallery’s entrance, offered a view of the street directly outside the gallery that was momentarily interrupted by the rotating image of a safety razor that had been somehow projected from within the slim monolith, “slicing” our vision. View With Razor differs from then emerging tropes of media-based “installation” art, where cable for signage or video projectors was not hidden or enclosed, the nascent technology being the co-star of the piece along with content; all of Victoria’s optical machines were enclosed within cabinetry, mechanical wizardry operating from behind a curtain. Robert Watts appeared especially current—humor again, but with a Fluxus wrinkle. Wry and impeccably produced, a lucite pork chop in Watt’s Pork Chop on Plate with Pea (1965) looks like a Jean Arp, the table-top image mounted into a table top in a Magrittean double take, while, in Girl With Mole That Lights Up (1965), a tiny mole lights up occasionally on the photographed thigh of a nude woman whose crotch confronts us on the wall from about where crotches should be. Unlike many of the artists in The Photographic Object, 1970, media never trumps idea in Watt’s art…

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REfocus: Contemporary Photogravure

SUNY Cortland
Cortland, New York
March 18–April 24, 2014

Kathryn Kramer

As its title REfocus made clear, the exhibition of photogravure at SUNY Cortland’s Dowd Gallery intended to redirect attention to this enduring medium in the hands of artists today. Not that the intaglio/photography hybrid ever lacked. Its challenging processes and captivating effects give photogravure a perennial allure, even in this digital era. The title may even be construed as the curator’s sly reference to the latest apps for digital cameras touting their enhanced—one could even say “photogravuresque”—focus and blur capabilities.

Undoubtedly it is photogravure’s intriguing combination of fine-grained image quality with slight, soft blur that perpetually reclaims attention in its behalf. The results of this fusion are remarkably pleasing, projecting the kind of classic beauty that tends to evade questioning or definition…

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BASH: An Exhibition in Two Parts

Byrdcliffe Kleinert/James Center for the Arts
Woodstock, New York
April 26–May 26, 2014
July 19–September 1, 2014

Harry J. Weil

The two-part exhibition BASH at Byrdcliffe Kleinert/James Center for the Arts cobbled together minor works from a familiar lineup of artists, including Marilyn Minter, Wangechi Mutu, Ulla von Brandenburg, and Robert Wilson, among others. Seemingly without rhyme or reason, neither the press release nor the small catalog provided any hint of curatorial ambitions. When I looked to the exhibition’s title for clues, it appeared, at first, to be a dead end. “Bash” can be defined (thanks to, in two opposing ways: either a verb meaning “to strike with a crushing or smashing blow”; or a noun connotating “a thoroughly enjoyable, lively party.” When taken together, BASH could be understood as a celebration of the macabre, a festive breakdown of social order and cultural cues, and it soon became clear that this was a good place to make some sense of what was on view…

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Alessandro Penso: The European Dream— Road to Bruxelles

Via Dei Fori Imperiali
June 20–26, 2014

Gabriele Stabile: Refugee Hotel

Museo Di Roma in Trastevere
June 6–September 28, 2014

Luisa Grigoletto

Italy has never been so overwhelmed by migrants at its doorstep— over one hundred thousand so far this year, outpacing 2013 more than threefold. With reception centers bursting, the country is coming to grips with how far Italian hospitality can stretch in the face of violence in Africa and the Middle East and rising anti-immigrant sentiment at home. Once a country better known for producing migrants of its own, Italy is today going through a role reversal, making it the perfect venue for two recent photography shows on the topic of immigration— one about refugees in the old world, the other about refugees in the United States.

Alessandro Penso’s The European Dream—Road to Bruxelles was a travelling exhibition set inside a freight container, hauled by a truck. It started its trip from the southern Italian port city of Bari, on June 17, and arrived in Brussels, Belgium, on July 4. It stopped in Rome for a week and, significantly, during World Refugee Day. As a mobile show, it mirrored the migrants’ south-north migratory pattern. Its climax in the European capital made the exhibit’s political slant particularly evident: an example of photographic activism, in the concerned photography tradition…

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Surviving Confinement: Video Sculpture by Heidi Kumao

Ceres Gallery
New York City
September 2–27, 2014

Alisia Chase

What forces, intentional or accidental, but certainly not of our own choosing, oppress us? In an age when human trafficking is rampant, when citizens are detained simply by virtue of the Middle Eastern origin of their name, when ubiquitous surveillance makes many people feel as if they’re perpetually under a microscope, the common delusion that we inhabit a world of relative freedom is too easily used to disregard or belittle those who struggle to maintain a semblance of sanity and dignity when they are imprisoned. In Surviving Confinement: Video Sculpture, held at the Ceres Gallery in New York City, Heidi Kumao explored these issues, and posed the more important question: How do such victims endure their constraint? This contemplative exhibition consisted of three videos, each of which addressed the ways in which people struggle to retain their humanity when they are held against their will.

In Swallowed Whole (2014), Kumao resurrects the vertical frame roll Joan Jonas effectively showed to be so disruptive in her 1972 work Vertical Roll. Kumao’s title suggests being utterly engulfed, and here the roll mimics the violent nature of the accident that broke her back in 2011 and subsequently monopolized her life. The resulting fracture and the delicacy of one’s body are alluded to by spine-like arrangements of ice-cubes and pills, each of which viscerally crack and shatter, as her vertebrae must have done…

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Book Reviews

Unfinished Stories: The Narrative Photography of Hansel Mieth and Marion Palfi, by Janet Zandy

RIT Press/Center for Creative Photography, 2013
208 pp./$34.99 (sb)

Stephen Longmire

“Let the work speak. Let the work answer silence and invisibility. Situate the work in permeable time. Show how its presence contains a past and presages a future. Act as a steward of the work by interpreting, analyzing, theorizing, and contextualizing. Most important, connect the work to struggle” (xv). This is the mantra with which Janet Zandy, a scholar of working-class literature who for several years taught a course on “Photography and Writing” at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), begins her study of the work of two socially concerned documentarians who have been omitted from the standard histories of photography. Unfinished Stories: The Narrative Photography of Hansel Mieth and Marion Palfi is the fruit of her exploration of the archives, housed at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona (which co-published this book with RIT Press), of two careers Zandy considers “remarkably parallel” (1) and her effort to puzzle out the uncanny coincidence of their many points of contact….

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Germaine Dulac: A Cinema of Sensations, by Tami Williams

University of Illinois Press, 2014
336 pp./$95.00 (hb), $28.00 (sb)

Patrick Friel

French filmmaker Germaine Dulac was never entirely lost to history— she is frequently cited as a pioneering figure in silent film and two of her films, The Smiling Madame Beudet (1923) and The Seashell and the Clergyman (1927), are recognized classics of experimental cinema. What had been lost is a full understanding of Dulac’s importance to French filmmaking, both her aesthetic accomplishments and her activism and support for the flagging French film industry in the years after World War I…

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Open Standards and the Digital Age: History, Ideology,
and Networks, by Andrew L. Russell

Cambridge University Press, 2014
316 pp./$32.99 (sb)

Leah R. Shafer

Open source, open network, open systems: the ubiquitous term “open” is central to digital culture. In Open Standards and the Digital Age: History, Ideology, and Networks, Andrew L. Russell offers an historical account of the “open” that uncovers the foundations of open systems and puts those systems into context. By rejecting conventional teleological accounts of the relationship between technology and society, Russell positions his historical study as a work of criticism that traces both ideological shifts and material developments in information and communication technologies (ICT)..

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Media Received

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Online Features

Portfolio: Many Rooms, by Bill O’Donnell

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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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