٠ Artie Vierkant: the artist as technologist ٠

vierkant_rgbicon© Artie Vierkant, RGB Icon, 2010. C-print on MD.

vierkant_possibleobjects_gr5© Artie Vierkant, Objects that are louder when placed on other objects, placed on other objects (Possible Object), 2012.

“being Post-Internet” is a distinction which carries ramifications beyond the art context as a societal condition at large, and that it would be antithetical to attempt to pinpoint any discrete moment at which the Post-Internet period begins. Any cultural production which has been influenced by a network ideology falls under the rubric of Post-Internet. The term is therefore not discretely tied to a certain event, though it could be argued that the bulk of the cultural shifts described herein come with the introduction of privately-run commercial Internet service providers and the availability of personal computers. text by Artie Vierkant

vierkant_copy1© Artie Vierkant, Copy (histogram sculptures), 2011. Styrofoam, histogram curves from video stills, autoexposure, user interface overlay, color digital fingerprint.

Even if an image or object is able to be traced back to a source, the substance (substance in the sense of both its materiality and its importance) of the source object can no longer be regarded as inherently greater than any of its copies. When I take a moving image and represent it through an object (video rendered sculpturally in styrofoam for example), I am positing an alternative method of representation without ever supplying a way to view the source. A source video exists. The idea of a source video exists. But the way the object is instantiated denies both the necessity of an original and adherence to the representational norms that follow the creation of “video” as both technical device and terminology. text by Artie Vierkant

vierkant_possibleobjects_gr5© Artie Vierkant, Objects that are louder when placed on other objects, placed on other objects (Possible Object), 2012.

The possibilities for these transformations, alternative methods of viewing “media” which essentially amounts to an arbitrary assemblage of data, has thus far been most thoroughly examined in the field of “information aesthetics,” a field as distanced from Post-Internet art as it is close to design, cartography, and indexing. Its fault is in its attempt to encapsulate large amounts of data—practical information, experience—into an aesthetic and understandable shorthand. In other words, information aesthetics provides in one object both a representation and the components which make up its source in an attempt to illustrate or arrive at knowledge. While Conceptualism as outlined by Kosuth may be limiting in its reliance on art propositions as enclosed tautological systems, its foundations—delineating progressive art with the same zeal Greenberg applied to ascribing modernism its “purity”7—hold true: “art’s viability is not connected to the presentation of visual (or other) kinds of experience.”8 For us to receive a piece of art and determine from it some piece of empirical information about the world at large would seem almost a bewildering proposition, even in a cultural climate where we have accepted that the singular qualification for the moniker “art” is the intention of any one individual to label it as such. text by Artie Vierkant

artie-vierkant-color-rendition-chart-thursday-28-march-2013-244pm© Artie Vierkant, Color Rendition Chart Thursday 28 March 2013. UV prints on sintra.

Guest blogger João Henriques ٠ Another brick in the wall ٠

A person is more holy than a land, even a holy land, since faced with an affront made to a person, this holy land appears in its nakedness to be but stone and wood. Emmanuel Levinas.

Josef Koudelka has become a mythical name for photography. A myth not only associated with the quality of his photographic production, but also with the fact that he is a member of Magnum Agency, that influential bastion of documentary photography, which brought him an iconic status of the photographer that is also a hero, engagé et résistante. However, the problems that came to be associated with photojournalism and other types of photography are well known. Not only did television ruin the need for long photographic stories, but the ubiquity of the digital capture is also propelling the extinction of a professional approach to the way photographers document events. Nowadays, what matters is the immediacy of the work, more than its quality or the thought that was behind it. If the photographer owned a certain iconographic power, such power was attributed to him not only for his skills, but mostly due to History’s slow pace. However, History has changed gears; it can do without big narratives (or rather, the media exempt her from such burden), connections and ideologies are lost. The event itself lost its importance in favour of a continuous unroll of events, preferably disconnected from any sort of thread between them abstracting and stupefying  reality.

The point of this prologue is to introduce Koudelka’s recent interview for the New York Times. I came across it via an article by Colin Pantall, where Colin dissects Asim Rafiqui’s hot reaction to Koudelka’s interview. The plot is relatively simple: Koudelka was invited to photograph the wall that separates Israel from Palestine and though he initially refused, we was then convinced to do it (at least that’s what  he says to say). The result can be seen in the book “Wall: Israeli and Palestinian Landscapes”, which serves has a motto for the NYT’s interview.

Koudelka begins by stating that he doesn’t usually do many interviews and in the end he also says that what photographers say about their works is of no importance, which is one of two things, either sharp irony or acute ingenuity, since what is done along the interview is precisely constructing and contextualizing his work, precisely one of the vectors that gives way to the emergency and validity of any photographic work, either one agrees with what Koudelka proposes or not.

And what does he propose? First of all, he seems to tack an understanding of landscape that is worthy of someone who has spent the last decades sleeping under a rock. Landscape as the promise of an experience conveyed by the photographer is nowhere to be seen, unless you think of a touristic phenomenology that usually neglects further reflection about the place. “I hope my book is not about my experience”, Koudelka says, an affirmation that appears here contextualized nevertheless shaping the general discourse about his work .

On the other hand, Koudelka needs facts, more on the surface than at a deep level. Such pragmatism values the optical and descriptive qualities of the image but ignores its subjective and narrative dimensions. In his words: “I don’t like picture stories. In fact I think picture stories destroyed all photography.” Such apocalyptic statement seems to be supported by a belief in photography’s lack of narrative potential. However, and here is the source of some confusion, the potential to tell a story is more a result of the way the photographer explores the medium’s capabilities – how he manages to use it in order to convey the way he experienced the place -, than of the story the image “tells”, since an image can only show facts but not interpretations, and facts without interpretations are of no use other than being mere documents, as the Israeli secret services (or Mr Rumsfeld, btw) could have explained. One might think that stories are also made of the possibility to explain something, but such explanations are precisely what kills the story. Contrary to Koudelka’s conservative beliefs we need interpretations in the form of stories instead of explanations, but all this rant against «stories killing photography» might be a position Koudelka holds towards his colleague Alec Soth (and others?), who might be accused of imploding Magnum with his “crazy” quests about the power of narrative, denoting an intestine battle inside the agency.

ba-gaza_SFCG1262911017image by Joe Sacco, from Footnotes in Gaza

Koudelka also seems to ignore landscape from different perspectives of use of the territory, as he considers the main function of the wall erected between Israel and Palestine one of destruction of the landscape. “I found that the destruction of the landscape is very bad” or “I call what is going on in this most holy landscape, which is most holy for a big part of humanity, is the crime against the landscape.” These comments seem to pertain to the aesthetic side, that of the landscape as a “sight”, being the only job of the photographer that of aestheticizing  the entire “mess” that way “fixing” what was formally wrong.

The remaining questions underlying the building of the wall will have to be disconnected from the images just because the photographer says so and others too. Leaning on third party legitimation to defend his idea, Koudelka says: “What is interesting for me is that I showed these books in Israel and everyone told me this book is not a political book — that this is about man and the place. This book is not about conflict”. In landscape photography there are usually no dead bodies, and as Adorno said «the beauty in nature is history standing still and refusing to unfold», adding the fact that Koudelka seems to not have listened a single dissenting voice, but was it supposed to expect any different answer from the Israeli side? As if in denial, Koudelka seems oblivious to the “implicit” contract he signed, that the images from his book are only another step towards the pervasive necessity of legitimacy from the Israeli state, not to mention the legitimacy of the violence and oppression against the Palestinians, who, nevertheless may also have their share of responsibility in the scenario. If the pictorial side of the landscape is served in the book both ways, from the perspective of its uses and consequences the wall seems to be totally one-sided, a sight worthy of the fiction proposed in Truman Show.

Koudelka is evasive whenever the questions denote a political dimension, putting all the History of engagé photography under a tabula rasa, genre where his images fit and where he is considered a carrier of the humanist approach. In the beginning he says that he would never have gone to those territories, but he did (with a little push, he says…); he also affirms that photographer’s statements are of no matter but he goes on talking about his images – which surely have the formal beauty we are used to see -, almost completely ignoring the reality they represent. At the end, Koudelka says, almost in a glamorous tone, how he dismisses art: “I never use the explanation of ‘art,’ as a matter of fact every time there is the Magnum meeting and they start to talk about art I say: ‘Can we eliminate the word art from the annual meeting? Let’s just talk about photography. What is this art?’”. He might have some reason here, in anthropological terms art and images are different matters but the discourse (and practice) that supports his work in Israel is grounded in the utmost artialization of nature through the use of landscape photography. A landscape given only as a sight, heir of painting, stripped away from use, experience, of any other meaning beyond his private world, “For me it is just enough to look at the pictures.” Unfortunately, such deflection looks like a strategy relegating the focus on the technical and formal capacities of the image (and on authorship, of course…) but not on what they represent. In the end, no more than a modernist position that rests in overall trustworthiness in an understanding of the world through its appearances.

A certain philistine attitude from some photographers, generally supported by the anguish that results from the absence of non-commercial work and of being published at any cost, might lead them to escape the problematic dimensions of the commissioned works, hiding behind the technical aspect of the support, paying homage to the forms but forgetting the content. This sheds a light over Koudelka that could be seen as «give me some money for a book, don’t ask too many questions and it will all be ok», an approach that may be uncomfortable to some of his Magnum partners, with a lesson for future generations that rests mainly on a pragmatic materialism but not much else.

I hope to be mistaken about the romanticism and theatricality of this work about Israel and Palestine. Although we can recognize in the surface of the images their potential to become icons, and so to become triggers for political action – where on the contrary their depth may only unveil falsehoods and selective memories -, Koudelka’s images (and discourse) seem to be of a detached nature which codifies landscape in terms of a romantic and contemplative poetry, a somehow naïf and insufficient approach, concerning a territory and its implications that have been threatening the world peace for far too long.

text by João Henriques.

┐ Alison Stolwood └

© Alison Stolwood, Dark Green Fritillary on Wildlife Attracting Mix – installation shot 2011

© Alison Stolwood, Painted Lady (with sponge & with Fruit) – installation shot, 2011

© Alison Stolwood, Light Trap [Florescent]

More of Alison’s work here

┐ Seo-Yeoung Won └

© Seo-Yeoung Won, Chair, from the series Compressed Reality, 2010

© © Seo-Yeoung Won, Wheel, from the series Compressed Reality, 2010

“My work starts with sublimating from a mere common object in dairy life to an entity having a particular denotative meaning. For this, I have paid attention to existing expression methods of painting and installation art that take a dairy life object as a target of expression, and have continued experimentations to realise the methods in a particular space of a photographic studio. The illusion of space created by the painting, and the relationship between an object and space, all these are compressed into a photography taken in a photo studio, for the sake of expression. Also, it presents in a photo the process of representing an object by different media and the differences between them. As the result of this, a common object perceived objectively becomes an entity of expression shared in media such as installation art, painting, and photography, and at the same time an entity of symbolic expression containing the artist’s subjective view.”

Artist statement

More of Seo-Yeoung’s work here

┐ Pauline Fouché └

© Pauline Fouché, from the series Cassures (Cracks), 2002

© Pauline Fouché, from the series Cassures (Cracks), 2002

© Pauline Fouché, from the series Cassures (Cracks), 2002

The Cassures materialize an event-image abundant in the newspapers by reapropriation through the gesture and the image. Abused and reduced to the fragility of their appearance as well as that of their medium, these images attempt to reveal spaces other than those represented, where the subject disconnects itself from its direct relationship to the news, expressing as such a distance between the event and its representation.

« Pauline Fouché works with the relationship we might have to the news images (and particularly those of war and human drama) through the gesture-motif of the Cassures. Through the photographic reproduction of a crumpled up newspaper, an image that cannot be taken by its backside, beyond representation is produced. It is simultaneously a crevice and an invagination. We can almost hear the sound of a clash where time-lines are anarchically broken : tragedy of an event, factuality of media treatment, concussion of the glance. »

Morad Montazami

More of Pauline’s work here

As usual, a local subject on the world news for all the wrong reasons. This photograph, taken yesterday, is traveling the world, as if it added or stated something new. It belongs to Hugo Correia and depicts his coworker Patricia Melo, from AFP, instants before being hit by a police officer, amidst demonstrations related to the General Strike.

Although reading this image may seem immediate, I can assure you it is not. It highlights severe gaps in the Portuguese media, namely the fact that they are incapable of giving a truthful account of events. It has always been the case. One could think, I did, that being their relation to the truth so superficial and watching their colleagues’ work being blocked  (another photojournalist was beaten by the police), they would make an effort to tell the story and trace the line of events, but that’s not really the case. We lack good journalism, people who do it for the right reasons and want to pass on information to their pairs, who want to share their knowledge and in that process give people the necessary tools to fight injustice and oppression.

Censorship has taken over and it seems that this image is going to mark the moment the country is made aware of it and decides to keep his mouth shut and eyes closed. Unfortunately we seem to have nowhere to go but to be throw in the streets to fight the most cowardly side of this oppressive state: the police. It’s a shame, we’re going to meet the oppressor’s wishes, because that’s what the state wants, and it will inevitably happen.