Sunday, November 28, 2010

Relational Aesthetics

Relational Aesthetics seem to be reactionary to modern art. The idea that times have changed and so has and should art practices. The fundamentals that appear to make up Relational Aesthetics are very broad yet narrow at the same time. The idea that the new goal is to not have a goal. Some combination of defining sets of non definition. Objects are allowed to just be what they are. I believe these ideas are an attempt at opening up art to be inclusive as opposed to the high-brow exclusiveness of Modern Art. The idea of connecting people to the practices of the everyday and also doing those things together is very apparent. Relational Aesthetics also calls for a more sensory approach to art, the way it is seen and even touched, the works draw heavily from interaction therefore demanding it during its consumption.

I believe photography is related to Relational Art however it takes a specific kind of photograph to confidently label as such. I believe a photograph would most easily be placed in this realm if the photograph is simply the means of showing what occurred. Something performance based that was done perhaps in public so to make a certain point. The photograph as proof seems to be its easiest connection.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"Systems Everywhere" NEW TOPOGRAHICS AND ART OF THE 1970S, Greg Foster-Rice / An Archival Impulse, Hal Foster

In Foster-Rice's essay the main discussion revolves around the New Topographics exhibition. Attention is placed on a few of the critics or commentators about the exhibition that used words about the work that would allude to its connection to minimalism. However, many practitioners and critics who dealt with non-photographic mediums argued that Minimalism, as a majorly sculptural movement would not place even the most minimal 2 dimensional paintings within. Regardless of this disagreement, Foster-Rice recognizes the two movements have similarities with their "structural and strategic characteristics that reflect a broad shift in contemporary artistic practices". This shift is from the idea of the art as object to this idea as the art being a system. The transformation was envisioned in the hopes that art would have a new relationship to the social. Bringing the real world experience back into what informed art.

"Systems Everywhere"- 1960-70's artist began to respond to the complexities of the time. Work began to take shape in the response to American affluence post WWII and the Cold War as the city grew less crowded and the sub-urban landscape exploded. "an experience of the human altered landscape as a system determined by issues of construction, habitation, and abandonment within the natural landscape".

"Toward a Systems Aesthetic"- Foster-Rice explains that the negative change in societies use of the land becomes a heavy influence in the work of the New Topographics photographers. The use of pictorialist landscape photographs in the late 1800's early 1900's were a way of placing the humans hand gently on the landscape. Train tracks gently followed curves of glorious mountains and pristine streams. The New Topographics, as if shifting 45 degrees in perspective, show the interaction of man and landscape as opposing forces that are colliding rather than strolling side by side. Foster-Rice continues with a concept that applies this shift from the pictorialist representation of landscape as a way of placing the viewer back into the environment of which is being viewed in the photograph. "Rather than separate art from experience, their work sought to see art as an analogue for experience, in which photography played a central role".

Photography as a System-Foster-Rice summarizes John Szarkowhi, "that fine-art photographs should be thought of as pictures that summarize moments in time but considered distinct from the actual experience and social significance of that time."

Procedural Method- The procedural aspect to the New Topographic photographers was a method that was in response to traditional and formal aspects that previously defined fine-art photography. The procedural is to make an image that is not based on an aesthetic response. It was to recognize variables and then keep them constant.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

George Baker, Photography's Expanded Field

George Baker's introductory sentence - "I begin not with a negative, nor with a print, but with a screen." The wording of this, although, describing a photographically based project is a way that Baker is attempting to draw attention to the major point of this essay. The sentence plays on our understanding of photography, the way it is used, its once objectivity, and its now shift into new applications. He understands contemporary art as something "in crisis, or at least in severe transformation." Baker believes that the photographic practice still holds its earlier function although artists are now choosing to accompany or incorporate other forms with their work. It is still said though that something of the photographic effect still "survives" even through a transformation of traditional photography in a digital world. I think this is partially related to the loaded and learned referential agency of the photograph, for example the photograph of me and Russel Kirsch acting and presented as proof that I met him and the exchange happened in real life. The postmodern era is written as one that was attempting to expand the field of art and photography although Baker states that it was never really essayed on or "concretely expanded". Baker justifies his intention's of mapping this expansion on the basis that if the object of photography is "definitively slipping away" because of its expansion then we need to understand what that meant to the makers of art and photography in the past 25 years and how that has influenced the art makers of today. Baker proposes that the mapping of photography's expanded field be started by the "tearing" of "oppositional extremes". This is in connection to the idea of stasis and not-stasis, narrative and not-narrative, and the relationship between them all.

Bakers mapping shows the expansion as a way of broadening the application of forms and materials that are taken from culture and or influence it.

I was thinking about the work of Columbia instructor and photographer Brian Ulrich. Ulrich's photographs revolve around consumerism and the ways in which Americans interact with shopping, consumer goods, and the locations where these relationships are performed.

Image is from

His project Copia is broken down into "chapters". In his most recent body titled Dark Stores, Ghost Boxes and Dead Malls Ulrich has been photographing the locations that were once thriving shopping centers that are either barely keeping open or have completely imploded.

I am placing this body of work within Baker's expanded field because of Ulrich's use of found signage that once brilliantly hung as signage for bustling stores and had transitioned into non functioning words that were on their way of crumbling as the buildings they hung in would eventually be knocked down or re-purposed. The signs are installed along side the photographs to make an installation that Baker would most likely place on the plane of the "Talking Picture" narrative/stasis section of Bakers map. The photographs with the signage to me presents a sort of narrative that is carried even farther because of artifacts such as the signs that are physically presented in the installation. The stasis exists int he fact that the installation is not moving but this is a part that I am a little unclear about. I feel that somewhat the signage can actually transition the photographs into not-stasis because of the fact that something tangible from the world that the photographs show is now brought into the same space as the images? Does this sharing of the real world and the depicted one change the experience into one that does not reflect stasis?

Friday, October 29, 2010


Jason Evans is raising some serious questions about the use of internet/photography as a means of art making. He is essentially wondering why photography on and or for the internet is not being used more inventively. Evans sees the internet as an amazing gallery for photography if you are solely looking for an audience. However, very importantly, in the response to his essay, the type of "audience" is questioned. What level of interest is in the audience, how engaged is the view of the work, and to what intention did the spectator arrive at the photograph? Evans sees the internet as a valuable tool to photography. He places analog and digital on "different sides of the same coin". He also raises a very interesting point about the tangible being involved when making work and how that experience is still extremely important and remains mostly intact within the meaning of the work even after the image becomes intangible. Evans desires to see photographers push at this idea more. I concur with the response that talks about how this shift in art making will eventually happen but it is just not time for it yet. I think its beginning to take shape as the changes within the photographs, the market, the materials (or lack there of), and the communication between them all becomes more visible.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Lev Manovich Lecture

Lev Manovich gave a very interesting lecture last week. I know many of you were there. Hopefully I wrapped my head around his work in some way that makes sense and can be discussed. First of all it was very refreshing to hear a non-photographer present their work. His ideas offered a new way of thinking about visual culture.

Using software that Lev and his team created, massive amounts of images can be sampled and or grouped in ways that show patterns that are arranged through some sort of filter of predetermined criteria. The image above is a sampling of moments that visually occurred on a screen while a popular video game is being played from beginning to end (around 100 hours). To Manovich the arrangement and the gradual change in color is in some way connected to the culture that the game is created by and for. As he began to explain this I was a bit disconnected from believing him. It seemed like a grand statement to make without much "real" connection to culture because It seemed that too many variable were in play. Who came up with the game? How does the market of video games influence its aesthetic? Can a direct connection really be made? By the time I got done writing down a few cynical questions Manovich began to explain that this data isn't to be placed in the frame work of making specific statements about visual culture. The work to him is actually a way of dealing with the data. He is creating these pieces as a way of opening up the discourse about the media that surrounds us. Its about a new way of thinking about images, one that relates to the surge of images that already exist and is exponentially growing. Manovich also discussed that within the process, because the software could not handle arranging a frame for every second of the 100 hour game, they had to test to see what frame rate would grab the capture. To me this is one part that makes it art. A specific aesthetic is desired that is also influenced by technical limitations. Manovich is left with the overall control of how the final image looks. He controls how far from the source the piece is "zoomed into" and "zoomed out of".

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Photography and The Digital Image

I never thought I would find a relavent way to show this off but here is a photograph of me and Russell Kirsch and his wife taken last year. Russell led the team working for the US National Bureau of Standards that in 1957 made the first digital scan of a photograph.

Fred Ritchin writes in "Into the Digital" from After Photography (2009) that the influence of digital has and will continue to undoubtedly change photography. Ritchin begins his argument by explaining the way digital is titled. Names like "mouse" and "apple" are used in the language of digital to create a connection to the real world when the objects are obviously not alive or the same as their actual meaning. The automobile is also used to illustrate a way of thinking about photography turned digital. The automobile still uses words like horses to describe the power of the engine. Horses obviously coming from the horse and buggy which was once the main mode of transportation. Like the word horses sticking to the automobile, the words of analog photography stay with digital. To think about a way that digital will change the viewer, Ritchin reminds us how the automobile includes all of its comforts and luxuries as well as the construction of massively expansive and webbed networks of concrete road systems that change the landscape world wide. I think its also important to bring up the idea that because the digital is infinitely and consistently reproducible, the original loses its meaning. Ritchin correlates this to the ipod or digital music file compared to vinyl recordings. The experience of the sequence of an album now has the option of being shuffled at random which changes the way the album as a body is received. It also changes that experience uniquely form person to person. What I believe Ritchin is getting at is that our perception of the physical world is completely mediated by the image. Once the world is photographed and distributed, we live through the representations as opposed to actual personal experience.

This is a photograph of a piece by Walead Beshty. He has taken one of his photo grams and then edited the actual code that makes up the information of the image. This is somewhat of a piece that is related to Ritchin when he is discussing the change of analog to digital and how the image is now made up of code as opposed to a continuous tonal object.

Jorge Ribalta sees the take over of digital making photography more "molecular". Essentially he is saying that the image has become "increasingly disposable" and that the print is no longer needed because of the preview. The explosion of photography is happening in a way that is now non material which connects it to the visual culture that is using it. However this shift according to Ribalta effects the photographs ability to work as an index and can no longer be viewed as reality. The idea of photography as document is dead because the photograph no longer can be viewed as having the ability to also maintain realism. "Photography without realism is irrelevant photography, literally dead since it has lost its historical mission and its ability to create opinion and induce social transformations". Ribalta believes that we must reinvent realism in the photograph so to "reterritorialize photography" and that will have the "potential of new articulations between art, social science, and politics.

Dzenko is looking at this in a much different light. He believes that the digital images still holds the ability to represent reality and that the viewer has maintained a belief in this function. He does however discuss the digital image as index and how that relies more so on a physical criteria of materiality. Dzenko believes that the fears of what digital would do to the viewers trust in photography are off because the development and introduction of digital was done so in a way to mimic analog that the viewer will continue to "be rooted in previous social uses of photography".

I feel that the use of digital does have its challenges but I do not believe that within my work it creates anything problematic for the viewer. I shoot film and then output digitally. I also feel that it is within the subject matter that I shoot and the kinds of images that I make I am in a way able to detour around issues within the digital argument. I do not shoot images that tend to have elements or clues that would make the viewer question the reality within my images. I tend to use more formal strategies like lighting and composition to draw the viewers attention. I suppose that any viewer of any image can have the internal question of weather or not the image is real but I would be surprised if that would be the first thing someone would ask me about one of my images, artist or not.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Testimonty - Azoulay and Zreik, Picturing Violence - Reinhard

Azoulay uses Laub's work to illustrate the civil contract of photography because of the way Azoulay feels the images read. Laub's photographs are described as having the ability to offer the viewer clues surrounding the subject or subjects that inform the viewer in a way that causes some sort of connection. The use of pairings of subjects that look similar causes the viewer to further more enter the images and notice more closely the subjects differences. The photographs showing the victims who narrowly escaped death that are physically wearing marks of the event they faced pull the subject out of the political arena and sets them in a more humanitarian place. A position that is more so looking at the idea of life and death as opposed to class or culture or religion. The text used in the series written by the subjects is Laub's attempt of defining the affected group instead of using it to divide the two sides of the conflict. This way of thinking is how Azoulay sees the civil contract functioning in a way where the viewer can engage with the subjects in the images without being bombarded with the push and pull of perhaps taking one side of the conflict as right or wrong. A way in which the viewer can "watch" to understand this is what the subjects are going through right now instead of "looking" at the photograph and only responding to the theatricality of an image that is blatantly assigning protagonist and antagonist.

Reinhardt's essay beings with the idea that images of violence and people in despair rarely achieve their aim. Photographs are rare to incite enough response that physical things are done to benefit the subjects or situation in the photographs. Its so amazing how in the beginning Reinhardt lists off a serious of phrases that load a specific memory of a photograph that is representative and unforgettable of recent suffering.

About the Abu Ghraib photograph it is interesting to think about the uses of such images and by who. It is discussed that by showing some one being tortured it is causing a perpetuation of humiliation but at the same time if the person in the photograph decides to reveal themselves then the image become iconic of what they experienced. How ever with the man who did come forward that was not the real person in the famous photograph, he still was able to capitalize on the power of that image.