Afterimage Vol. 42, no. 4

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Reports

Print City: Detroit Mid-America Print Council Conference

Detroit, Michigan
September 24–27, 2014

Christopher Burnett

In at least two cities in the world of print it was a busy time, with the New York Art Book Fair and the Print City: Detroit conference being held the same weekend. Although no competition in raw numbers probably, Detroit drew enough people and events to make it an exciting place to encounter the expanded possibilities of print. The conference was a collaboration between the Mid-America Print Council and the James Pearson Duffy Department of Art and Art History at Wayne State University, and involved a full schedule of panels, demonstrations, events, themed portfolios, local exhibitions, and keynote speakers. The organizers’ goal was to blend academic and independent practices, a premise supported by the urban context of Detroit, even though completely engulfing and overshadowing it…

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Unsuspending Disbelief: The Subject of Pictures

Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry
University of Chicago
November 21, 2014

Janina Ciezadlo

Laura Letinsky, professor in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Chicago, whose lush enigmatic photographs of tabletops, food, and flowers have become increasingly abstract, organized a daylong symposium at the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry for twelve working photographers and theorists, including herself, to convene and discuss the state of contemporary photographic practice. Letinsky launched what she proposed as an “ongoing conversation,” on “The Subject of Pictures,” with the conceit that suspending disbelief—part of the agreement between reader and storyteller that makes fiction possible—is not necessarily part of the photographic exchange because, as Letinsky said, in the words of Diane Arbus, “with photography there is always the real…”

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Essays & Features

From Climate Crisis to Climate Movement: A Conversation with Robert van Waarden

Marc James Léger

On September 3, 2014, in the lead-up to the People’s Climate March of September 21, the Concordia University Student Union, the Students’ Society of McGill University, Divest Concordia, and Divest McGill hosted the People’s Climate Tour in Montreal, which was organized by 350.org and featured a lecture by Bill McKibben, author and co-founder of the international environmental organization, as well as by Ellen Gabriel, a human rights activist from Kanehsatà:ke. Also present on the tour was Robert van Waarden, a young Montreal-based photographer, whose recent project, Along the Pipeline (2014), documents the stories of people who live along the 4,600 km path of the proposed Energy East pipeline, which, if realized, would transport more than one million barrels of diluted bitumen from Alberta’s tar sands to Saint John, New Brunswick, where it would be refined and exported. Van Waarden is a professional photographer whose work focuses on climate change as well as the social movements involved in climate change projects…

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Fragmentation and Intimate Space in Olivier Ratsi’s Anarchitecture Photography

Lital Khaikin

French multimedia artist Olivier Ratsi evokes doubt in the mind of the viewer by initiating an inquiry into representations of abnormal architecture. Concrete structures become mirages, reminders of temporality. The fragmented images are reflections on the fragility of appearance, anticipating interpretation and revealing the artifice of meaning. The surrealistic forms in Ratsi’s photography are in dialogue with many innovative architectural theorists and practitioners who have been exploring the abstraction of form over the past forty years, most specifically borrowing the term “anarchitecture” introduced by New York avant-garde artist Gordon Matta-Clark in the 1970s.1 Ratsi represents a contemporary inclination toward the phenomenological within architecture, employing an aesthetic that rejects archetypal geometry and returns instead to the materialization of individual experience in urban space…

Video Supplement: from the series WYSI*not*WYG (2009-14), by Olivier Ratsi

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Body, Speech, and Resistance: A Reading of Recent Works by Karen Mirza and Brad Butler

Yesomi Umolu

London-based artists Karen Mirza and Brad Butler are often cited for their ongoing work The Museum of Non Participation (MoNP). Initiated in 2007 as an Artangel1 commissioned project, Mirza and Butler’s peripatetic fictional museum addresses issues of power, privilege, and participation in everyday life. Without a dedicated physical space, the MoNP has taken a variety of forms, including a newspaper, performances, site-specific interventions, a neon sign, and workshops at various international locations—always with the intent of interrogating the politics of participation at its hosting sites. As the artists state, nonparticipation is “a condition embodied in the need to participate and the simultaneous need to withdraw, including the question as to how withdrawal can be made visible.” The term, which at first can be misunderstood as a negation, is in fact an expansive conceptual tool used by the collaborative pair to understand the status of individual and collective agency in society at large. Most importantly, it serves to reveal the oft unseen structures that guide social relations between people, cultures, and nations…

Video Supplement: from Hold Your Ground (2012) by Karen Mirza and Brad Butler

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Exhibition Reviews

Jeremy Deller: English Magic

Turner Contemporary
Margate, United Kingdom
October 11, 2014– January 11, 2015

Harriet Riches

Pounding from the heart of Jeremy Deller’s installation are the unmistakable metallic vibrations of steel drums. Soundtrack to Deller’s film English Magic (2013), the beats offset footage of the crushing of a Range Rover (known as a “Chelsea Tractor” in reference to its non-agricultural use in expensive parts of London) and of the public happily c artwheeling on an inflatable Stonehenge. Set to a musical score recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios, references to key symbols of English culture are not only visual, but auditory too: Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Symphony no. 5 in D major (1938–43), iconic 1980s acid house track Voodoo Ray (1988) by A Guy Called Gerald, and The Man Who Sold the World (1970) by that most quintessential of English eccentrics, David Bowie, hold the audience transfixed until the end…

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Taysir Batniji: Full Bleed

Lease Agreement
Baltimore, Maryland
September 27–October 25, 2014

Trista E. Mallory

The recent exhibition Taysir Batniji: Full Bleed, curated by Liz Park, engaged with the themes of materiality, transience, and displacement. In the curatorial text, printed in a small handout, Park explains that the title Full Bleed refers to the process of printing and the trimming that is required to make an image that runs to the edge of the page. The image is sized larger than the page, and the portion that extends beyond the edge, or “bleed,” is sliced away in the final product. For Park, this concept is a metaphor for Paris-based multimedia artist Taysir Batniji’s experience as a Palestinian living in exile, the “bleed” signaling both the necessary loss of the image’s perimeter and the violence of the inevitable cut that echoes the precarious state of affairs in Palestine. Park conceived of and planned the exhibition in the wake of Israel’s attacks this past summer in the Gaza Strip, which killed more than 2,100 Palestinians…

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Oscar Muñoz: Protographies

Jeu de Paume
Paris
June 3–September 21, 2014

Jill Glessing

In the past, priests helped negotiate the passage from material world to afterlife. Today, we often look to philosophers and artists to help us fathom the puzzling polarity between life and death. The Colombian artist Oscar Muñoz is a modern-day priest. Through his manipulation of ephemeral materials—water, dust, heat, sun, time—Muñoz reenacts, again and again, the mystery of our coming and going, mediating the existential chasm between presence and absence.

In a sublime magic show at Jeu de Paume, many of the alchemical experiments that have occupied Muñoz for the past forty years were on display. From the artist’s intensive research with materials and processes has come an eclectic body of work, ranging from his early photorealist charcoal drawings of tenement interiors to his most recent video installations…

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The Space Between: Redefining Public and Personal in Smartphone Photography

Center for Photography at Woodstock
Woodstock, New York
June 28–September 15, 2014

Faheem Haider

Photography now marches in lockstep with smartphones, and engages all the imagemaking possibilities (democratic, social, individualistic, narcissistic) that smartphones invite—although one might not notice this turn when visiting most contemporary photography shows. This past summer, however, the exceptional group exhibition at the Center for Photography at Woodstock, The Space Between: Redefining Public and Personal in Smartphone Photography, offered a surprising corrective grounded in the ways photographers actually capture images in the present, fluctuating moment where so much of art, photography, communication, and documentation is contested and political. What’s more, the show sowed fertile ground for the progressive moves ahead in photography, and in the ways we picture ourselves….

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Burning Down the House: Ellen Brooks, Jo Ann Callis, Eileen Cowin

Pasadena Museum of California Art
September 14, 2014–January 11, 2015

Jody Zellen

Burning Down the House is an exhibition of photographic works by Ellen Brooks, Jo Ann Callis, and Eileen Cowin. Curators Claudia Bohn-Spector and Sam Mellon brought the work of these women together in part because all three began their careers in Los Angeles (in actuality, Cowin began her career on the East Coast and moved to Los Angeles to teach in the 1970s). It seems that the work is less about the specifics of the city, however, than the desire to push against traditional as well as experimental modes of photographic representation that were taught and practiced in LA in the late 1970s and early 1980s. These women turned inward and constructed narratives for the camera that explored memory, desire, and contemporary culture from a feminine and feminist point of view…

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Ryoji Ikeda: test pattern

Times Square
New York City
October 1–31, 2014

Ryoji Ikeda: superposition

Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York City
October 17–18, 2014

Ryoji Ikeda at Salon 94
Salon 94
New York City
October 20–31, 2014

Joo Yun Lee

Three years after his first major exhibition (the transfinite, at the Park Avenue Armory in 2011), Ryoji Ikeda, a Paris-based Japanese artist working across both sound and visual elements, returned to New York this fall to present a series of works at the invitation of the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) for its Crossing the Line festival. Considering Ikeda’s comparatively recent introduction to North America, it was a rare chance to experience a body of his work in different formats and in very different venues across New York City: an audiovisual performance, superposition (2012–ongoing), which premiered in the United States in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; a solo exhibition at Salon 94; late-night screenings of test pattern (2008–ongoing) on digital billboards in Times Square throughout the month of October; and a one-time special sound event complementing the screenings…

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Herlinde Koelbl: Targets

Deutsches Historisches Museum
Berlin
May 9–October 5, 2014

Martin Roemers: Eyes of War

Deutsches Historisches Museum
Berlin
October 1–January 4, 2015

Sarah Goodrum

In 2014, the Deutsches Historisches Museum (DHM) in Berlin showcased a number of exhibitions either commemorating the beginning of World War I in 1914 or examining the consequences and aftermath of war more generally. Two recent exhibitions, Herlinde Koelbl’s Targets (2014), and Martin Roemers’s Eyes of War (2014)1, are photography projects informed by interviews with the victims of war and those trained to perform it. Though only overlapping in the museum for a few days, they worked together to introduce viewers to some little- known effects and mechanisms of military violence. Ultimately concerned with the personal histories and contemporary experiences of war and not chiefly critical of the aesthetics or effects of photography as medium, these exhibitions are firmly embedded in the history of war photography and documentary images, and provide examples of the medium’s ability to catalog surface appearances. However, when these photographic images combine with personal narratives and with other images in series form, they probe surfaces and produce striking subjectivities…

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Introducing Suzy Lake

Art Gallery of Ontario
Toronto
November 5, 2014–March 22, 2015

Alisia Chase

It was the chin hairs that did it. Really. They were curly, alternately gray or brown, and one emerged from an inflamed pimple. The others stuck out—as I myself know from experience these horrid things tend to do—at odd angles and in senseless places on the lower half of this made-up, obviously older woman’s face. I was equally repulsed and comforted by the brutal truth in these courageous and culturally outrageous photographs, which I encountered on the website of the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) under the exhibition title Introducing Suzy Lake. Scanning the summary, I discovered that Suzy Lake is sixty-seven years old, and has been producing a powerful body of politically engaged photographic and performance work for over four decades. Two thoughts immediately crossed my mind. The first was, “What a way to make an introduction!” and the second was, “Where have you been all my life?”

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Stas Orlovski: Chimera

Pasadena Museum of California Art
September 14, 2014–January 11, 2015

Jody Zellen

For many years, Stas Orlovski was content to work in his studio making drawings, paintings, and prints. These works are delicate and minimalistic. Almost monochromatic, they fuse hand-drawn elements with printed sources (ranging from Victorian-era illustrations and pages from Russian children’s books, to Japanese prints and botanical illustrations) that were collaged or transferred to canvas. The works, whose subjects touch on the magic of the natural world as an ever-changing place of contemplation and awe, also present a sense of nostalgia for the printed communication of bygone eras. Featureless heads, exotic birds, flowers, moons, stars, and falling rain populate his compositions. The images range from nocturnal landscapes, in which the subject is illuminated by a beam of moonlight, to somber gardens surrounded by forests of carefully drawn trees…

Video Supplement: Chimera, by Stas Orlovski

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Book Reviews

The Forms of the Affects, By Eugenie Brinkema

Duke University Press, 2014
347 pp./$69.50 (hb)/$27.95 (sb)

Stephanie Amon

On the turn to affect theory in the humanities, Eugenie Brinkema notes that affect “has been deployed almost exclusively in the singular, as the capacity for movement or disturbance in general” (xiii). If affect has functioned as a conceptual trapdoor out of textual analysis, gripped by a “not that, but this” rhetorical model, The Forms of the Affects is organized around the contention that “we do not yet know all it is that form can do” (261). Brinkema argues that affect theory has not activated the potentialities that inaugurated it, employing New Criticism’s “affective fallacy” to push against the idea that theoretical work is being done when inaccessible, irrefutable “intensities” become the site of theory (33–34). In this refreshing resistance, the formal constitution of affective achievement in film is asserted as the path into critical revelation…

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Media Noted

The Cinema Makers: Public Life and the Exhibition of Difference in South-Eastern and Central Europe since the 1960s, by Anna Schober

Intellect, 2013
140 pp./$35.00 (sb)

Ana Bento-Ribeiro

Filmgoing practices are an emergent focus of film studies research. Anna Schober’s The Cinema Makers adds to this trend, covering geographical gaps and pointing out relations rarely highlighted in works in this field. Schober focuses her analysis on the formation of alternative exhibition circuits in both ex-Yugoslavia and Germany/ Austria. As information on this topic is scarce in academic works, she aptly uses interviews with some of the main actors of these movements, together with theoretical approaches on uses of urban space and the construction of the public sphere…

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Media Received

Click here for our full Media Received listings

Online Features

Exhibition Review

The Space Between: Redefining Public and Personal in Smartphone Photography

Videos

Chimera, by Stas Orlovski

Video from the series WYSI*not*WYG (2009-14), by Olivier Ratsi

Video from Hold Your Ground (2012) by Karen Mirza and Brad Butler

Portfolio

Out West, by Kyler Zeleny

 

 

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Of the Appalachian Diaspora Text by Stephen J. Quigley
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Outside My Outdoor Shower There Is a Carnival Text by Lisa Annelouise Rentz
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