Afterimage Vol. 43, no. 3


Superscript: Arts Journalism and Criticism in a Digital Age

Suzanne Szucs

Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
May 28–30, 2015

The first edition of Superscript: Arts Journalism and Criticism in a Digital Age proved to be provocative and well considered. Organized by the Walker Art Center (WAC) and its Mn Artists program, the conference brought together writers, theorists, and artists working on the cutting edge of arts criticism within the digital domain. As WAC curator Andrew Blauvelt noted in his welcome, the conference would be “taking a more expansive look at the how and why of what we do as arts producers.” Although a conference emphasizing the virtual world presented something of an incongruity given the attendees filling the WAC theater (live bodies present to watch live presenters) and took the standard format of presenters, panel discussions, and keynotes, the organizers approached the topic on multiple digital levels as well, providing livestreaming, tweeting, a conference blog, a blog mentorship program, and full transcription. This inaugural conference was ambitious, spunky, and stimulating….”

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Image Text Ithaca

Karen vanMeenen

Ithica College
Ithica, New York
July 9–10, 2015

The second annual Image Text Ithaca (ITI) symposium brought together thirteen ITI workshop fellows and several invited guests for public presentations on the campus of Ithaca College over the course of one evening and the next day, following a workshop during which this year’s fellows worked on new image and text projects. The brief public event began with a talk by Jason Fulford, a fellow from the 2014 workshop, and Tamara Shopsin. They shared individually produced works such as Fulford’s photo book Hotel Oracle (2013) and Shopsin’s illustration work for the New York Times, as well as the inspirations (which range from semiotics to poetic ambiguity) for joint book projects including the absorbing image-only monograph This Equals That (2014)…

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Essays & Features

Climbing “Internet Mountains”: A Conversation with Clive Holden

Matthew Ryan Smith

Toronto-based artist Clive Holden engages the prospect of chance in various random compositions through his use of randomization algorithms. Combining new digital technologies with lo-fi analog formats, these sequences of possibility literalize Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s notion of the rhizome (a philosophical concept relating to representation, among other things), which they describe as having “no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo.” As such, Holden’s work presents a strong challenge to the very idea of the static, immobile image because the work dramatizes the simple drift of time. For this reason Holden’s images remain performative, quite literally making themselves anew every moment ad infinitum, a kind of controlled chaos. Recently, Holden has drawn his attention to random compositions created for media lightboxes, media walls, and projections, making them with web technology that’s been modded for offline purposes. But he has also been addressing the internet more generally by creating digital paintings, website artworks, and videos. In his latest series INTERNET MOUNTAINS (2014–present), he appropriates found imagery from the World Wide Web to produce fantastical digital landscapes and accompanying moving image works. Similar to his earlier work, these too depend on randomization processes to determine their visual trajectory, yet their approach is radically different. In both the digital paintings and internet videos, sunspots, orbs, and other abstract forms traverse the frame in a collision of analog and digital, real and surreal. I spoke with Holden via email exchange in May and July of 2015 about his recent projects and whatever else came to mind…

View Internet Mountains>

Network(ed) TV: Collaboration and Intervention at Fernsehgalerie Gerry Schum and Videogalerie Schum

Robyn Farrell

In 1969 Gerry Schum short-circuited the conventional mode of art production and exhibition with a broadcast of contemporary artist films on television. Schum—a documentary filmmaker for West German broadcast television—saw the traditional hierarchies of painting and sculpture as outdated, and the institutions in which they circulated as an inaccessible system. He sought ways to challenge what he referred to as “the eternal triangle of studio, gallery, collector,” and employed network systems via conceptual means to achieve new forms of communication. The Fernsehgalerie Gerry Schum (1968–70), a conceptual “gallery” that produced and exhibited artist films for broadcast on television, and Videogalerie Schum (1971–73), the first commercial gallery dedicated to the production and sale of editioned artist videotapes, were animated by a networked sensibility born from the dynamic nature of film, broadcast television, and video technology, that was also a major precursor to the rise of new media and video art collectives in Europe and the United States in the following decade. The apogee of this strategy—democratizing the art object and exhibition— served to decentralize and decommodify the work of art, and in turn reclaimed the agency of artists and audiences from the institutional confines of galleries and museums. Despite Schum’s innovative and prescient articulation of art and technology, there has been very little critical writing about Schum and his pioneering experiments in television and video distribution outside of Europe…

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Torture, Terror, Digitality: A Conversation with Tony Cokes

Jenelle Troxell

Post-conceptual artist Tony Cokes’s Evil series (2001–present) interrogates the ideological underpinnings of the War on Terror. Through the critical reframing of appropriated texts and images, Cokes infuses a new legibility into material that has remained largely “hidden in plain sight.” Refunctioning streams of poorly read/forgotten information, Cokes creates an architecture of “wreading” for the digital age.

Cokes is Professor of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University and lives in Providence, Rhode Island. His works have been exhibited at such venues as the Museum of Modern Art; the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Guggenheim Museum in New York; Centre Georges Pompidou and La Cinémathèque Française in Paris; Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona; the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT) in Los Angeles; Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (ZKM) in Karlsruhe; and Documenta X in Kassel, Germany. He has received grants and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council for the Arts, Creative Capital, and the Getty Research Institute.

What follows is taken from a series of exchanges, via email and in person, begun in February 2015—when Cokes presented his work in the context of Distracted Wreading [From Structural Film to Digital Poetics], an exhibition at Union College in Schenectady, New York…

View Evil.16: Torture Musik (excerpt – 2011)

Exhibition Reviews

Annalisa Sonzogni: Identikit II

Harriet Riches

Lilian Baylis School
London, UK
March 6–20, 2015

Drawing on overlapping debates around participation and the relationship between image and space in contemporary art and architecture, Identikit II (2015) is the most recent of Annalisa Sonzogni’s site-specific photographic installations. Produced as both visual document and artistic response to the disused Lilian Baylis School in London’s borough of Lambeth, the resulting twelve large-scale photographs were briefly installed on site within the dramatically darkened space of the former school’s octagonal theater. Built in the early 1960s to serve the inhabitants of the area’s residential streets and housing estates just south of the Thames, the school closed in 2005, moving to new premises close by. Languishing for ten years before being snapped up for lucrative residential development, the vacant campus sits at the heart of what the Financial Times last year described as that rarest of beasts—three acres of untapped prime inner-city land ripe for gentrification…

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Overtime: The Art of Work

Paige Sarlin

Albright-Knox Gallery
Buffalo, New York
March 8–May 17, 2015

Overtime: The Art of Work, a recent exhibition at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, explored the representation of workers and labor conditions from the late eighteenth century into the early twenty-first century. Much cannier than a survey, curator Cathleen Chaffee’s exhibition integrated contemporary modes of video and installation with more traditional representational strategies. The exhibition invited viewers to consider the ways in which artists have engaged and addressed “the labor of others” by gathering a range of images of workers and displaying them in groupings that illustrate both breadth and similarity across time and “prompt connections between very different art and artists.”

Chaffee arranged to have free admission every Sunday for the length of the exhibition “in honor of the hardworking people” of Western New York. This generosity was in evidence throughout the exhibition: in the space given to each artwork, in the absence of lengthy wall text, and in the two free “handouts” that accompanied the show—Chaffee’s newsprint guide and Fred Lonidier’s poster…

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Light, Paper, Process: Reinventing Photography

Judith B. Herman

The Getty Center
Los Angeles
April 14–September 6, 2015

Today’s digital photographers can produce prints with the crisp resolution and range of values of anything by Ansel Adams or other members of Group f/64. Yet the mystery of the darkroom—the gradual apparition of an image as the paper slips through its chemical bath—continues to captivate certain artists. The seven photographers featured in Light, Paper, Process: Reinventing Photography exemplify a growing trend: using traditional photographic materials in unimagined ways.

Since the inception of photography, practitioners have battled the notion that they are not artists but operators of a machine that objectively documents external reality. There was nothing mechanical in Light, Paper, Process. This was a show about the imagination of the artist interacting with the possibilities of the materials, about the hand of the artist carefully pouring or savagely slashing. Images from the external world were optional. So were cameras.

The works ran the gamut of physical size and emotional expression, from Alison Rossiter’s soft, imageless, sepia-edged 3 ½ x 2 ½–inch slips of paper to John Chiara’s wall-spanning Sierra at Edison (2012), a 50 x 72–inch reversed-color image that turns a mundane landscape into a fiery apocalypse. What the artists share is the love of experimentation, testing the limits of the materials, relinquishing control, and letting the medium act in its own unpredictable ways. They also share a sense of connection to the history of photography, which has always been an experimental discipline, allied to both science and art…

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Zanele Muholi: Isibonelo/Evidence

Jaclyn Meloche

Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art,
Brooklyn Museum
May 1–November 1, 2015

Zanele Muholi: Isibonelo/Evidence is a timely exhibition hosted by the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum in light of the June 26, 2015, ruling by the United States Supreme Court legalizing the fundamental right to marry for same-sex couples in the US—the twenty-first country worldwide to do so. But more than evidence of today’s political landscape, Zanele Muholi’s collection of photographs, words, and an intimate screening of her video Being Scene (2012) invite viewers into the violent pain, emotional despair, and colorful celebrations of love within the black lesbian and transgender communities of her native South Africa.

In the first room of the exhibition, the charcoal colored walls provide a haunting backdrop for what becomes a crime scene turned site of commemoration. Hanging in a grid are sixty portraits from the series Faces and Phases (2006–14). In honor of her friends and acquaintances who have been assaulted, raped, and murdered in South Africa over the past ten years, Muholi remembers each identity in a sea of gazes—gazes of anger, gazes of hope, and gazes of pride. In contrast to the past-tense nature of the word “DECEASED” stamped on hate murder victim Disebo Gift Makau’s passport in The Departed Gift, Ventersdorp (2014), each portrait signals a yearning to survive…

View an interview with Zanele Muholi

The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists

Kathryn Kramer

Smithsonian National Museum of African Art
Washington, D.C.
April 8,–November 1, 2015

The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists is a tour de force on the part of curator Simon Njami. Above all, Njami was able to gather fifty artists with recent works that effectively filter Dante’s poem for the twenty-first century. He was also able to persuade each venue mounting the exhibition so far (Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt am Main, Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art) to devote for the first time its entire gallery space to a single exhibition, so that the Divine Comedy’s tripartite afterlife imaginary would be suitably housed. Furthermore, Njami commissioned nearly half of the exhibiting artists to create new works that directly engage Inferno, Purgatorio, or Paradiso, while the makers of the noncommissioned works had to be persuaded to allow his curatorial acumen to match them to one of the Dantean realms. For all this, Njami is an impresario of Diaghilevian proportions. He has often alluded to such a wide-ranging role when describing the feats of an independent curator as comparable to those of a symphony conductor or opera director. He is even Dante himself as he consigns the works to their proper places in zones of punishment, atonement, or reward (although there has been occasional bartering for position between artist and curator and even some place-changing from venue to venue).

The space of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art (NMAfA) is more compressed than the exhibition’s previous sites; so only forty artists from nineteen African countries and the African diaspora are represented instead of the original fifty from twenty African countries plus the diaspora. Nevertheless, what the museum lacks in square footage is more than compensated for by its subterranean design, plunging three floors down from the National Mall entrance level around a circular staircase. Visitors can see all the way to the very bottom of the stairs, taking in art of every conceivable medium as it fills the stairwell (functioning as Purgatory) and spills throughout the open gallery spaces on the levels assigned to Heaven and Hell…

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Book Reviews


By Nick Sousanis
Harvard University Press, 2015
208 pp./$22.95 (sb)

Stephanie Amon

It is a measure of Nick Sousanis’s vigor as an artist and thinker that any traditionally academic review of his book must proceed from the strain of the translator’s predicament, and no less from the pleasures of laboring under the spell of his work. Unflattening is the first doctoral dissertation written and drawn entirely in comic book form, comprised of eight chapters and two interludes in which comics illuminate the ethical stakes of allowing visual thinking and embodied cognition into contemporary educational culture. Concerned with the entrenched denigration of multimodality in the Western intellectual tradition, Unflattening is a delightfully profuse work on the nature of imagination itself. Beyond its efficacy and beauty as a piece of graphic nonfiction, Unflattening makes an important contribution to the growing pedagogical literature around comics…

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A Geology of Media

By Jussi Parikka
University of Minnesota Press, 2015
206 pp./$24.95 (sb)

Cortland Rankin

Digital culture is commonly thought of in immaterial terms— as data embedded in hardwareless networks like the “cloud.” Jussi Parikka’s A Geology of Media dispels this myth by reminding us of the undeniable link contemporary media technologies share with geophysical reality. The smartphones, laptops, and game consoles that enable digital culture are inconceivable without the metals and minerals like cobalt, copper, aluminum, and palladium that form the basic building blocks of their components. Likewise, the planned obsolescence and fetishization of the new that characterizes the digital age has generated enormous amounts of electronic waste that have dire environmental implications. In this innovative take on media history, Parikka adopts geology as a critical trajectory not only to unearth the geophysical basis and deep history of modern media technologies, but also to warn of their potentially far-reaching ecological impact for the future…

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Volatile Smile

By Beate Geissler, Oliver Sann, and Brian Holmes
Verlag fur moderne Kunst Nurnburg, 2014
180 pp./$45.00 (hb)

Janina Ciezaldo

It is hard to reconcile the many complex and ultimately serious ideas in Volatile Smile with the austerity of the photographs. Their unsettling evidence points to a surface that is emptied because meaning lies elsewhere. In order to understand the technological substrata—in many ways this is a book of photographs about what we can’t see—that keep the volatile, automated financial markets running, photographers Beate Geissler and Oliver Sann, professors at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago respectively, have collaborated with writers whose investigations reveal what the photographs can’t depict. Four salient essays define terms, provide context, outline concepts, and raise questions about a future when electronic trading algorithms “can act on their own without human execution and monitoring” (16), as contributor Karen Irvine remarks—where algorithms make decisions that shape the world in which we live….

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Laruelle: Against the Digital

By Alexander R. Galloway
University of Minnesota Press, 2014
280 pp./$27.55 (sb)

Jay Murphy

Alexander R. Galloway has taken the opportunity of the recent spate of translations of the work of François Laruelle, not to provide a précis or explanation of his “genuinely weird way of thinking” (xi), but rather as an extremely creative springboard to recast any and all thinking around “the digital.” This is not so much in the sense of the digital as opposed to the analog, although this comes into play, but in the especially capacious definition Galloway employs variously throughout the book. The digital is “the basic distinction that makes it possible to make any distinction at all. The digital is the capacity to divide things and make distinctions between them. Thus not so much zero and one, but one and two” (xxix). In this view, “digitality is an autonomous field able to encode and simulate anything whatsoever within the universe” (xxxiv). Having defined the digital thus as the “media principle”—what is real can be communicated, and “the communicational is real” (xix–xx)—Galloway has aligned his aspiration to rethink digitality from a primordially cleared slate with the “non philosophy” of Laruelle. Laruelle proposes a similar exit from philosophy (whose project is thus superimposed upon that of digitality) and what Laruelle stigmatizes as the “philosophical decision” (45), an auto positioning or doubling enabled by the making of distinctions. Through this use of Laruelle, Galloway seeks to show that the “computerized world . . . never was determining in the first place” (xxxv)…

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The Helsinki School: From the Past to the Future, Vol. 5

Edited by Timothy Persons and Asia Zak Persons
Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2015
288 pp./$60.00 (hb)

Janelle Lynch

The Helsinki School: From the Past to the Future showcases the work of twenty-eight artists who have taught or studied photography at the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture in Helsinki, Finland, during the past twenty years. It includes an introduction by founder Timothy Persons and eight essays by international curators, art critics, and collectors. Through spirited stories and ample reproductions, this handsomely produced, historic publication reveals why the program is hailed as one of the most successful in contemporary photography today…

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International Pop

Edited by Darsie Alexander and Bartholomew Ryan
Walker Art Center, 2015
368 pp./$85.00 (hb)

Suzanne E. Szucs

Visitors to the Walker Art Center’s International Pop exhibition will recognize that it is a massive display designed to transform perceptions about Pop art. Downplayed are familiar Andy Warhol soup cans and Roy Lichtenstein comic strips, in favor of global art works ranging from the political to the critical. Covering Pop’s emergence in the 1950s through the early 1970s, it is a huge show, requiring time and energy to consume. The Walker’s director, Olga Viso, writes in her introduction to the exhibition catalog that “Pop was not a movement, not a style, but an ethos, one that permeated the consciousness of artists worldwide during a time of unprecedented social and cultural change” (6). Taking her words to heart, curators Darsie Alexander and Bartholomew Ryan have accomplished the Herculean task of demonstrating the broad range of Pop’s influence, and this weighty and attractive catalog is a worthy companion to an ambitious exhibition…

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Media Received

Click here for our full Media Received Listings

Portfolio: Bad Selections, by Andre Bradley

View this portfolio


Inverview with Zanele Huholi 
Evil.16: Torture Musik (excerpt-2011) by Tony Coke


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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