Afterimage Vol. 42, no.6


Artist Organisations International Conference

Andrea Liu

January 9–11, 2015

Margarita Tsomou, artist, performer, and theorist, threw this portentous quote at the audience in her introductory lecture to the panel on “Solidarity & Unionising” at the Artist Organisations International (AOI) Conference held at the Hebbel am Ufer (HAU) theater in Berlin in January. It was perhaps an inadvertently apt metaphor for the unwieldy and contentious conference organized by Dutch visual artist Jonas Staal (founder of the New World Summit), Florian Malzacher (curator of the 2012 Truth is Concrete symposium in Graz, Austria), and Joanna Warsza (public program curator for last year’s Manifesta 10 in St. Petersburg). The AOI conference was conceived to address a perceived shift in the art world from artists engaging in ephemeral project-based work to, instead, artists coagulating long-term structures and organizations that outlive any one exhibition or biennial— hence the title, “Artist Organisations International…”

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Prospect.3 New Orleans

Kathryn Kramer

New Orleans
October 25, 2014–January 25, 2015

Billed with eternal optimism as a “biennial,” the exhibition of international contemporary art staged in New Orleans since 2008 (Prospect New Orleans) was officially rebranded a “triennial” upon the opening of its third iteration in October 2014. In a press statement exploiting an appropriately musical analogy, Executive Director Brooke Davis Anderson stated: “Prospect New Orleans has, in essence, been a ‘triennial’ all along so it seems right to embrace the rhythm we know we can implement successfully.”  It seems this newly minted triennial has secured a durable placemarker on the ever-expanding biennial map—no mean feat in a crowded field…

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52nd Society for Photographic Education National Conference

Karen vanMeenen

New Orleans
March 12-15, 2015

Under the theme of “Atmospheres: Climate, Equity and Community in Photography,” this year’s annual conference of the Society for Photographic Education was held in New Orleans, a city that has seen more than its share of climatological events.

In the opening keynote, author Rebecca Solnit set the stage for this theme, focusing on the local geography and storm history, presenting a talk entitled “Devils In the Details: Photographs, Maps, Words, Truths and Adventures from Yosemite to New Orleans.” Noting that photography has an indexical relationship to the world, Solnit shared excerpts from Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas (2013), an alternative mapping project she produced with writer Rebecca Snedeker, and in particular its content related to Hurricane Katrina. Solnit began with tales of the storm and more broadly outlined disaster sociology…

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Essays & Features

Migratory Surfaces: An Informal Visual Economy and the Repair of the Colonial Archive

Timothy P. A. Cooper

An incident in the life of Elihu Yale comes to mind when surveying the pervasive discourse assailing media piracy, the mobility of people and labor, and the lingering stranglehold of imperial power. On one occasion, Yale, a notable governor of the East India Company in the late seventeenth century and benefactor of the eponymous American university, wanted to hang his manservant for leaving his services but, as English law did not allow for such a punishment, he had him tried for piracy instead. The man was hanged.

In London in November 2015, a major exhibition at the Tate Britain will explore the attempted departures, dispersals, trajectories, and trade routes of making and collecting art in the nineteenth century, and how these were mediated by the mutual entanglements of the European imperial project.2 In addition, Okwui Enwezor, a noted critical voice on matters of urbanity, African art in the postcolonial era, and the archive as subject and source, is curating the 2015 Venice Biennale. Many of the issues at stake in these two European introspectives are brought into focus by exploring another of the products of the interaction between artist and empire in the postcolonial era…

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Equivalent Simulation: A Conversation with John Opera

David LaRocca

John Opera is an American photographer who works at the intersection of photographic materiality and light-derived abstraction. Since graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (where he earned an MFA), Opera has lived and worked in Chicago. His work has been the subject of recent solo exhibitions in New York (2013), Los Angeles (2014), and Miami (2014). The preoccupation of his practice in the last few years has centered on the relationship between the material origins of photographic processes and the way those processes can be manipulated to express form, texture, and tone. Drawing on the most primitive components of imagemaking, Opera has reclaimed processes such as the anthotype and cyanotype and applied them to the representation of abstractions as well as everyday objects. Especially in his recent work, Opera addresses the peculiarity of organic, light-sensitive materials that give rise to two-dimensional tableaus. For this reason, many of his recent pieces evoke the parameters, conditions, and effects of paintings. In order to reflect on these latest projects, especially in the light of his long history of work as a photographer, I discussed the origins and development of Opera’s work with him during the winter of 2014, via phone and email…..

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Exhibition Reviews

Sarah and Joseph Belknap

Janina Ciezadlo

Museum of Contemporary Art
October 11, 2014–February 24, 2015

We live in what has been called a culture of “acceleration.” Our lives have been sped up and pushed to the brink by the algorithms that make the financial trades that drive the markets, but in a predictable paradox, these automated superstructures and timesaving devices have caused us to hurry through our lives rather than enjoy thoughtful leisure. Aesthetic experiences tend to be contemplative and outside the rush of the day-to-day and often take our relationship to time itself as a subject. Sarah and Joseph Belknap’s recent exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, depicted celestial bodies while examining our relationship to time. Their five-channel video sculpture, 12 Months of the Sun (2014), featured remixed NASA transmissions of nearreal- time images of the sun. What registered first about the piece, comprised of five square monitors stacked and placed in a corner of a balcony away from the rest of the exhibition, was the beauty of the spheres, glowing in hot and cool colors on the screens, each dead center in the monitors…

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Aura Satz: Eyelids Leaking Light

Almudena Escobar Lopez

George Eastman House
Rochester, New York
January 24–April 26, 2015

Eyelids Leaking Light is a two-piece installation by the London based artist Aura Satz that functioned as a complement to the commemorative exhibition In Glorious Technicolor, which was on display simultaneously at the George Eastman House. Together they paid homage to the hundred-year anniversary of the founding of Technicolor Motion Picture Corporation and its contribution to the development of color. Following the loudly saturated Technicolor hues of the main exhibition, the installation offered the opportunity to decompress while revealing the “behind-the-scenes” of color technology…

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Come as You Are: Art of the 1990s

Tim Maul

Montclair Art Museum
Montclair, New Jersey
February 8–May 17, 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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Adam Magyar: Kontinuum

Rachel Somerstein

Julie Saul Gallery
New York City
February 12–April 4, 2015

It’s a peculiarity of modernity that we tend not to notice how we get from one place to the next. Our personal technologies, like mobile phones and iPads, encourage and amplify this disembodiment. But liminal times and spaces are, Victor Turner argued, intensely productive. During threshold experiences like commuting to work, we pass from one identity to another, from one set of responsibilities to the next. We are both/neither spouse and worker, daughter and student, roommate and colleague—potential energy ready to pop.

These liminal times and spaces were the subject of Kontinuum, Adam Magyar’s recent show at New York’s Julie Saul Gallery. The black-and-white photographs and video, shot in subways and on city streets around the world, are as beautiful as they are conceptually acute, a rare combination…

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Depth of Perception

Michael DiRisio

Oakville Galleries
Oakville, Ontario
January 18,–March 15, 2015

Addressing the complexities and failures of dominant modes of representation, the group exhibition Depth of Perception included a range of video, installation, and new media works that explore the nuanced and ever-evolving mediation of contemporary experience. In the accompanying exhibition essay, curator Jon Davies argues that, with the current prevalence of mobile screen-based media, we are increasingly attuned to the tactility of the technology that we use, as screens themselves become tangible and require an unprecedented amount of interaction. Many of the works included were similarly focused on their own tactility, considering the strengths, weaknesses, and nuances of the media within which they operate….

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Brian Weil, 1979–95: Being in the World

Jody Zellen

Santa Monica Museum of Art
January 17–April 18, 2015

Brian Weil was an artist and an activist whose career was cut short, at the age of forty-one, by a heroin overdose. A retrospective entitled Brian Weil, 1979–95: Being in the World was put together by Stamatina Gregory for the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, where it was on view in 2013. In 2015, the exhibition traveled to the Santa Monica Museum of Art, as part of a continuing trajectory to reintroduce the work. Since his death, Weil’s work has had little exposure, and he is far from a household name. In the 1980s, he was loosely associated with artists of the Pictures Generation, yet he was committed to a different kind of politics of representation…

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Burn with Desire: Photography and Glamour
Anti-Glamour: Portraits of Women

Jill Glessing

Ryerson Image Centre
January 21–April 5, 2015

Identity construction within mass consumer society is contradictory: we strive to both fit in and stand exclusively above the crowd; women spend their smaller incomes on consumer products that perpetuate their exploitation. What magical mechanisms can explain these illogics?

“Glamour” might be one of these. This k ey value, developed by Hollywood and circulated through mass media, was the focus of two linked exhibitions at Ryerson Image Centre: Burn with Desire: Photography and Glamour and Anti-Glamour: Portraits of Women. Over 120 works of photography, film, and video, from the early twentieth century to the present, set up a discussion around the construction of codes of glamour, beauty, and celebrity, as well as resistance to them…

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Péter Forgács: Letters to Afar

Stephanie Amon

Contemporary Jewish Museum
San Francisco
February 26–May 24, 2015

To enter Letters to Afar is to be enveloped in a hushed cacophony: whispers, cries, laughter, ominous music, barking dogs, and chirping birds convey a dense inhabitation of history within the darkened space of the exhibition. On view at San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum are sixteen new works by Péter Forgács, the renowned Budapest-based filmmaker and video artist, consisting of “reorchestrated” amateur films originally shot in the 1920s and ’30s. This rare footage was the work of Jewish American immigrants from Poland returning to their hometowns with newly available, portable motion picture cameras. Their episodic recordings were meant to aid personal memory, to share the Old World with the second generation in the United States, and to motivate interwar economic support for struggling Jewish communities. Covering more than half of the museum’s ten thousand square feet of exhibition space, Forgács’s compilations reanimate a culture whose decimation would define genocide. This ambitious project uses archival film from the YIVO (Yiddisher Visnshaftlekher Institut) Institute for Jewish Research to poise visitors between nostalgia and reclamation, emptiness and transcendence….

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Film Review

Arresting Power: Resisting Police Violence in Portland, Oregon

Rose Bond

Arresting Power: Resisting Police Violence in Portland, Oregon
By Jodi Darby, Julie Perini, and Erin Yanke
2015/84 min.

In rare confluences of timing and artfulness, documentary films, at their best, can fill a breach, sound a clarion call, and coalesce communities to action. Arresting Power: Resisting Police Violence in Portland, Oregon premiered January 15, 2015, at the Northwest Film Center in Portland at a time when primetime media reports of racially motivated police use of deadly force aired with disturbing frequency across the nation. In the case of Arresting Power’s premiere, the packed art-house venue spoke strongly to the tenets of relational filmmaking that underscored its making.

Arresting Power’s opening sequence—rendered in a black-andwhite scratch-on-film technique—is a telling foreshadowing of the kind of hands-on filmmaking that both characterizes this documentary and signifies its departure from traditional docs…

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Book Reviews

For a Love of His People: The Photography of Horace Poolaw

Edited by Marie Mithlo
Yale University Press, 2014
184 pp./$49.95 (hb)

Alexander Brier Marr

A new book brings a comprehensive look at the photography of Horace Poolaw (Kiowa, 1906–84) to a wide audience for the first time. From the late 1920s to the 1960s, Poolaw made over two thousand photographs, most showing life among Native American communities on the Southern Plains of Oklahoma. This was a time of profound change in the daily lives of Native peoples, in the figure of the Native American artist, and in the principles of federal Indian policy. For a Love of His People: The Photography of Horace Poolaw includes photographs of dancers performing at fairgrounds, young women adorned in buckskin finery parading on automobiles, and families grieving at military funerals. For decades, Poolaw’s relatives and friends engaged his camera with varying degrees of distance and nonchalance, formality and familiarity. The pictures reproduced in For a Love of His People, taken along with their detailed captions, convey a sense of the intimacy that sustained close community relationships during decades of intense social change…

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Biopolitical Screens: Image, Power, and the Neoliberal Brain

By Pasi Valiaho
The MIT Press, 2014
186 pp./$35.00 (hb)

Jay Murphy

In a remarkably succinct manner, Pasi Väliaho’s Biopolitical Screens: Image, Power, and the Neoliberal Brain, draws together from myriad sources (ranging from art history and film theory to neuroscience, neoliberal economics, anthropology, video gaming, virtual reality technology, and counterinsurgency/ military strategy) an increasing convergence in description of our “neoliberal” social and media environment. Väliaho also proposes, remaining within the purview of screen culture, artists’ video installations as counter-examples to the reigning types of “biopolitics.” Part of the broader scaffolding to this analysis is Michel Foucault’s definition of “biopolitics” as the attempt, beginning toward the end of the eighteenth century, “to rationalize the problems posed to governmental practice by phenomena characteristic of a set of living beings forming a population: health, hygiene, birthrate, life expectancy, race” (qtd. 18)….

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The Factory: Photography and the Warhol Community

By Catherine Zuromskis
La Fábrica, 2012
156 pp./$45.00 (sb)

Billy Name: The Silver Age; Black and White Photographs from Andy Warhol’s Factory

By Billy Name, edited by Dagon James
Reel Art Press, 2014
444 pp./$95.00 (hb)

Godfre Leung

It is an art historical truism that postwar art was the first era to take photography for granted. This is especially true of pop art, which, partly spurred on by the omnipresence of photographic reproduction in mass consumer culture, thematized a mise-enabyme of images of images. However, despite the centrality of photography to pop art, one hardly encounters photography as “just” photography: whether in Robert Rauschenberg’s photo transfers or Gerhard Richter’s photo paintings, Ed Ruscha’s books or Andy Warhol’s silkscreened paintings, the photograph was almost always crossed with another medium or non-photographic process. Within Warhol’s milieu, however, there was a wealth of photographic images that existed on photography’s own terms. Most famous are the photographs by Billy Name and Stephen Shore by which many of us know the Factory and its subcultural scene. Other well-known photographic activities include Polaroids by Warhol superstar Brigid Berlin and Warhol himself, and the photobooth strips credited to Warhol but the result, of course, of an interchange between the sitter and the apparatus…

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Understanding a Photograph

By John Berger
Aperture Foundation, 2013
176 pp./$24.95 (hb)

Words Not Spent Today Buy Smaller Images Tomorrow: Essays on the Present and Future of Photography

By David Levi Strauss
Aperture Foundation, 2014
192 pp./$29.95 (sb)

Colin Edgington

The flow of contemporary criticism feels as ephemeral as the melting snow—measured thoughts that flutter into our vision momentarily, get buried under timelines, and are swept to the back “pages” of a digital “paper.” In light of this, there remains a place for physical books, whose innards represent the earnest and sincere efforts of a thinker tackling tough questions and attempting to slow things down in search of deeper understanding. Two recent publications, the re-release in November 2013 of John Berger’s Understanding a Photograph and the release in May 2014 of David Levi Strauss’s Words Not Spent Today Buy Smaller Images Tomorrow: Essays on the Present and Future of Photography represent just that. Both texts, published in the series Aperture Ideas: Writers and Artists on Photography, provide nearly half a century of writing on photography and the social and political spheres in which images are disseminated and used.

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Media Received

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Online Features

Film Review: Arresting Power: Resisting Police Violence in Portland, Oregon

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Portfolio: Live Aboard, by Ingvild Melberg Eikeland

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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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