Afterimage Vol. 42, no.5


The Artist as Debtor: A Conference about the Work of Artists in the Age of Speculative Capitalism

Jarrett Earnest

New York City
January 23, 2015

Within the law there is a type of debt, incurred through wickedness, that cannot be dissolved—debt that arises from fraud, willful and malicious injury, or wrongful death cases, for instance—transgressions meriting court-awarded restitution. Strangely snuggled within this otherwise criminal realm are student loans, debts that, at present, cannot be forgiven or discharged for any reason, including bankruptcy. Far from being a harmless legal quirk, this iron-clad debt signals one of the larger structural evils into which a new generation is being delivered, part of what some are naming a “culture of indenture.” Artists Coco Fusco and Noah Fischer recently organized a daylong conference at Cooper Union to address the deeply interwoven effects of debt and advanced capital on artists and art education today….

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10th Lianzhou Foto Festival

Bill Kouwenhoven

Lianzhou, China
November 21–December 22, 2014

Ten years is a long time in the life of a photography festival. It indicates perseverance on the part of the festival’s directors and backers. It also indicates the festival’s acceptance in the greater world of photography festivals, such as within the Festival of Light organization. This is the umbrella organization of a dozen or so photography festivals of established international stature, of which some of the oldest are festivals in Arles, Houston, Braga, and Bratislava; many of these have existed for thirty or more years and have presented curated work and, often enough, regular portfolio reviews since their inception. In an era where, it seems, there is a festival in every village in France (where the Rencontres d’Arles, the grandmother of all photography festivals, was founded) and across Europe and the Americas (where every self-respecting city must have a “photography week”), it is important to pay attention to those festivals that have established themselves in other parts of the world…

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Essays & Features

Position as Desired: A Conversation with Kenneth Montague

Noa Bronstein

Kenneth Montague, a curator and collector based in Toronto, is the founder and director of Wedge Curatorial Projects. Since 1997, Montague has been exhibiting photo-based work with a strong focus on work that explores black identity and the African diaspora in boundary-pushing exhibitions in Canada and internationally. Currently, Montague sits on the Advisory Board of the Ryerson Image Centre, and on the Africa Acquisitions Committee of the Tate Modern. He has sat on the Photography Curatorial Committee of the Art Gallery of Ontario (2009–12), is a frequent panelist at international art symposiums, including the Bamako Encounters, and has lectured on photography at the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Portugal. I interviewed Montague on September 29, 2014, at the Royal Ontario Museum about his unique curatorial practice and recent exhibitions…

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You Could Get Used to It: Susan Sontag, Ariella Azoulay, and Photography’s Sensus Communis

Joscelyn Jurich

On March 20, 2014, at 7:30 p.m., about sixty people gathered at Times Square in New York City. Standing across from a glimmering white Sephora sign and just a few feet from the neon American flag glowing on the New York City Police Department outpost, the group raised pieces of pita bread toward a large digitally projected photograph on the side of the Thomson Reuters building. A broken tree protruding from a row of partially ruined buildings was the anchoring horizon point in a photographic frame seemingly swelling with people, Palestinian refugees lining up for food aid in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, Syria. “10 million people need our help in Syria,” announced red lettering streaming across a digital banner running atop the projected image. A few minutes later, the projection repeated, then stopped; the crowd thinned, but remained…

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Takedown Notice: A Conversation with Paolo Cirio

Liz Flyntz

Paolo Cirio is a conceptual artist whose work, while often based on digital networks and presented on the internet, is more concerned with underlying social structures than with the affect and aesthetics of the internet. Cirio’s work tends to be text- and dataintensive. He targets the biggest multinational corporations out there: Amazon, Facebook, Visa, Google Maps, Twitter. And Cirio has gone for the jugular with each of them—he has scraped one million profiles from Facebook and posted them to a fake dating site (Face to Facebook, 2011); released tens of thousands of pay-per-view articles from major financial news outlets around the world, offering cash rewards to readers who successfully answered quizzes about them (Daily Paywall, 2014); and unveiled the legal identities of over two hundred thousand global companies using the Cayman Islands as a tax haven (Loophole for All, 2013). The pieces are often exhibited in some physical manifestation, as well as published online, where they enjoy a half-life during which the targets in question issue legal cease-and-desist letters and industry journals try to make sense of an “information performance artist” destroying the credibility and security reputations of major brands…

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Exhibition Reviews

Lynn Hershman Leeson: Civic Radar

Nathania Rubin

ZKM Center for Art and Media
Karlsruhe, Germany
December 13, 2014–April 6, 2015

The first notification one receives upon entering the kinky tech
hall of Lynn Hershman Leeson’s retrospective Civic Radar is that visitors
will be filmed. Some recordings will be stored, others promptly
erased, and there will be full disclosure at every junction. To orient
and engage oneself with the show involves succumbing to these parameters, not only by allowing one’s image to be captured and used,
but by activating various triggers along the way, stimulating fictional
or digital puppets into action. Once submerged in Hershman
Leeson’s cyberworld, the viewer is implicated in all sights, sounds,
and narratives…

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Conflict, Time, Photography

Harriet Riches

Tate Modern
November 26, 2014–March 15, 2015

Coinciding with the centenary of the outbreak of World War I, Tate Modern’s latest photographic blockbuster addresses the photography of conflict at an interesting moment. Opening amid the painstaking removal of the 888,246 bright red ceramic poppies installed in the Tower of London’s moat as part of Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red (2014), by Paul Cummins and Tom Piper, in the lead up to the annual remembrance events of November 11, Conflict, Time, Photography appeared reserved in comparison. Becoming a site of public remembrance, the installation of poppies numbered to represent each of the British lives lost in the conflict attracted huge crowds. With its mostly blackand- white images of depopulated scenes of war captured after the event rather than in the heat of the action, the Tate’s show couldn’t hope to compete…

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Yvonne Todd: Creamy Psychology

Martin Patrick

City Gallery Wellington
Wellington, New Zealand
December 6, 2014–March 1, 2015

Two of Wellington’s public galleries devoted the entirety of their respective spaces to solo exhibitions by New Zealand artists this year, an exceedingly rare occurrence. The most recent of these ventures is the City Gallery’s Creamy Psychology, a formidably detailed and cohesive mid-career retrospective of the photographer Yvonne Todd. Todd has enjoyed much support in the past decade or so, particularly since becoming the first recipient of the country’s prestigious Walters Prize in 2002, judged that year by the venerable curator Harald Szeemann, who said Todd’s was “the work that irritated me the most.” (The other major solo show in Wellington featured Simon Denny, Berlin-based nominee for the prize in 2012 and last year.) Todd’s images take their initial cue from the tropes of commercial portrait photography, but tangle with an eclectic range of cultural phenomena derived from diverse sources along the way…

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Bernhard Hosa: . . . Like a Phantom Limb . . .

Luisa Grigoletto

Galerie Raum Mit Licht
November 13–December 19, 2014

The temptation to ascribe precise character traits to certain physical appearances is deeply rooted in history. For the ancient Greeks, the expression “kalos kagathos” typified the ideal conjunction of physical beauty and moral goodness. Several centuries later, two disciplines marked the last years of the eighteenth century: physiognomy gained vast popularity, thanks to the work of Swiss pastor Johann Kaspar Lavater, and phrenology developed with German physician Franz Josef Gall. Both practices lost their aura of authority at the end of the nineteenth century and were dismissed as pseudosciences…

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Liz Deschenes: Gallery 7

Suzanne Szucs

Walker Art Center
November 22, 2014–November 22, 2015

Over the course of the twentieth century, the condition of photography was solidified as the medium that could best capture a moment in time. What if, instead of capturing a single moment, photography became about an experience had over time? What if “photographic” became a sculptural medium, part of an installation hinged on accumulated light? And what if that light were transfigured into an object made permanent yet fleeting?

Liz Deschenes’s solo presentation at the Walker Art Center allows ample opportunity to contemplate the meaning of photography in the contemporary art world. Liz Deschenes: Gallery 7 consists of nine freestanding silver-toned black-and-white photogram panels, along with four pigment prints on acrylic and an inset aluminum hanging rail system circumnavigating the walls just above the height of the panels…

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People’s Biennial 2014

Arzu Ozkal and Claudia Costa Pederson

Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit
September 12, 2014–Jauuary 4, 2015

People’s Biennial at the Woodward Gallery at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) housed seventeen freestanding structures that, according to the curatorial statement, displayed work of “the little-known, the overlooked, the marginalized and the excluded.” Co-curated by the artist Harrell Fletcher and curator Jens Hoffman, People’s Biennial represented a diverse array of creative practitioners in America today: everything from wedding photographers to woodworkers, “alienologists” to designers. The gallery space was divided into a maze of multiple huts, each a different color with slight variations in form. Each hut was accompanied by the names and illustrated portraits of the artists and their collaborators, as well as a brief description, interview, or story about the body of work exhibited inside…

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Steve Sabella: Independence

Seth Thompson

Meem Gallery
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
October 28–December 6, 2014

In the Middle East, one’s identity is often defined by a passport. When someone mentions a country or place, a mental image of that location and its people is frequently constructed. In much of his work, Steve Sabella has questioned this construction, which is built by time and memory, as identity is much more complex than it appears.

Born in Jerusalem, Sabella, who often considers the plight and struggle of the Palestinian people within his work, had at first glance appeared to deviate from this course when he created his Independence series, a body of photographic works realized in 2013. The exhibition at Meem Gallery consisted of seventeen deliberately grainy images of figures floating in an abyss-like sea of blackened water. The bodies are distorted and ambiguous and could even be described as painterly, as their representation within the water appears almost to be created with gestural brush strokes. The images were bonded directly onto acrylic sheets using the diasec process, which give the two-dimensional photographs a sheen-like quality…

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Book Reviews

The Intervals of Cinema, by Jacques Rancière

Marc James Leger

Verso, 2014
154 pp./$24.95 (sb)

The Intervals of Cinema brings together essays written by Jacques Rancière between 2001 and 2010, which were published together for the first time as Les écarts du cinéma in 2011. Readers who are familiar with Rancière’s The Politics of Aesthetics (2004) and Aesthetics and Its Discontents (2009) will recognize in Intervals Rancière’s characteristic approach to the modern aesthetic regime of art, as he calls it, in which art’s modesty and weak ability to change the world leads to a “politics of aesthetics” for which the former avant-garde connection between artistic radicality and political radicality is severed, leaving contemporary artists, theorists, and curators alike with a dispositif of art that Rancière defines in this book and elsewhere as the “distribution of the sensible…”

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Re-Collection: Art, New Media, and Social Memory, by Richard Rinehart and Jon Ippolito

Leah R. Shafer

The MIT Press, 2014
297 pp./$35.00 (hb)

Richard Rinehart and Jon Ippolito begin their comprehensive guide to the problems and possibilities inherent to preserving, collecting, and archiving the art of the digital age by framing the situation as a vitally important historical crisis. If we do not rescue our cutting-edge creative work from the digital dustbins of history, they argue, we risk losing any record of the cultural work of our era. The crisis as they describe it is so dire that their apocalyptic language does not seem out of place: “All will be lost unless we uncover the underlying causes of today’s cultural destruction before it’s too late” (7). By framing preservation as a social practice, the authors highlight the relationship between memory and power, and argue that the stakes of theorizing, strategizing, and troubleshooting the disintegration and disappearance of vast archives of creative work are critically political…

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Media Noted

Savage Preservation: The Ethnographic Origins of Modern
Media Technology, by Brian Hochman

Stephanie Amon

University of Minnesota Press, 2014
312 pp./$82.50 (hb), $27.50 (sb)

American anthropological practice during the heyday of the “vanishing race” myth was characterized by tension between the aspiration to scientific objectivity and the ineluctable cultural situation of the ethnographer. Just as important was the pressure to naturalize genocide during the intensifying colonization of North America in the nineteenth century. “Salvage” ethnography (premised upon the historical subordination of cultures predicted to “vanish” due to inferiority) offered a paradoxical foundation to the discipline of anthropology: its erstwhile duty to impartially record cultures it would also help consign to historical oblivion…

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Between the Black Box and the White Cube: Expanded
Cinema and Postwar Art, by Andrew V. Uroskie

Patrick Friel

University of Chicago Press, 2014
288 pp./$90.00 (hb), $30.00 (sb)

At one point in Between the Black Box and the White Cube, Andrew Uroskie discusses Marcel Duchamp’s “recovery” of Victorian-era optical toys— “philosophical” toys—in his artmaking practice. The reintroduction and recreation of his prewar works of the nineteen-teens and twenties and his postwar works of the 1940s served as conceptual and aesthetic models for a range of artists in the following decades. Similarly, Uroskie undertakes his own act of recovery in this important new book, an engaging art historical/theoretical exploration of the beginnings of what was later to be termed “expanded cinema…”

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Media Received

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Online Features

Report: The Artist as Debtor: A Conference about the Work of Artists in the Age of Speculative Capitalism

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Portfolio: The New Town, by Andrew Hammerand

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Current Issue, Vol. 45, no. 5

4 3 2 CRY: Fracking in Northern Colorado by Kathy T. Hettinga

Vol. 45, no.5

Xilunguine by Paul Castro


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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