Monday, April 7, 2014

john divola

Despite how much it reaks of the West Coast, John Divola’s work interests me because of how it is, to paraphrase Jan Tumlir, about the “deferall of aesthetic decision-making”. I actually agree with most of the points that Jan and John discuss during their interview, especially their discourse surrounding the idea that photography affords one the ability to change the context of objects within an image, whether artistic or not, and appropriate them as something with art context, making the photographic image less about transparency and more about the relationship to things in the world. Divola uses photography to excerpt objects that plainly exist in the world and give them aesthetic value through their “contextual replacement” ─ appropriating, essentially. But isn’t that ultimately what photography is? Appropriation? Photographers really have no choice but to appropriate the aesthetic sensibilities of the referent. Right? Anyway, I also found it interesting how John talks about how he prefers to work in series versus individual photographs. I’ve been feeling that way myself. However, I’ve found that a lot of photographers, specifically students, use the idea of a “series” as a scapegoat. It's the quantity of quality mentality that most photographers seem to adapt. If I had a dime for all of the terrible series that I’ve seen I could pay off my student debt... Actually, that’s probably not true considering that I go to a private art school. Needless to say, I’ve seen a lot of bad series. I feel hypocritical for making such remarks, however,  because like John, I too prefer to have an ongoing engagement with my subject matter or concept over a period of time. I feel like John can get away with this process because the act of making his work is just as important as the work itself, and for that reason lends itself to a series that sufficiently documents the performative aspects of what he is doing. Whereas I have the tendency of fixating on specific concepts, normally not at all performative, and pursue only those concepts until I’ve exhausted all of my options.

the archive

I still don’t entirely understand the idea of the archive. I’ve now read Allan Sekula’s text twice and sat through a class discussion. The concept of archiving just seems so archaic in a digital age. No? It seems even more so dated in a photographic sense. Trying to make sense and/or truth of the archive seems… pointless. And talking about it just seems… I mean, I can think of better things to talk about. Or type about, in this case. Have I ever talked about my cat?  Ugh, I think the questions that Sekula is asking and/or challenging are both interesting and valid, however not as relevant as they were in 1986. I appreciate his cynicism in regards to the bureaucratic handling of images and the archival paradigm of policing. Those issues, in particular, are as relevant as ever. The issues of privacy, that is. Wait, unless I read into that part incorrectly? I vaguely recall talking about that in class, however. Anyway, Sekula makes an important argument about authoritarian appropriation and it’s effect on the interpretation of archived images. He claims that the acquisition of an archive is an acquisition of power rather than history. The prevailing impression of photographic truth and the authority of the photographic image reinforces the weight of such a thought. The photographic image has inherent authority as a source of truth, giving the archive even more authority, and in this way using the archive as a tool to support or allude the truth. His discussion on the context that is lost through archiving, however, is what I feel is less relevant. The thing is, and forgive me for the redundancy of this statement, photography is disposable. There is no denying that the amount of access we have to images — creating images, distributing images, saving images, deleting images, reproducing images, etc — is greater than ever. And comes at a great cost, for that matter. As photographers, we inherently dislike the idea of homogeneity. It’s a threat to us and our *cringe* work. The very thought of it bothers us because we try really hard (read: too hard) to stand out... We spend a lot of time, and in the case of us students, a lot of money developing a… God forgive me for saying this but… a style. Or at least a something that is different, lol. And therefore interesting? Mind you, I use the word style loosely because it is my belief that photography itself is a style and there’s no way around that. But look, the internet homogenizes everything. I mean. Duh. There is no such thing ascontext anymore. Similar to Steyerl’s defense of the poor image, I would argue that the post-modern reality which privileges the viewer over the author, is not… dare I say it… a bad thing, per say. This privileging of the viewer(/owner) should not be as much as a problem as us privileged people are making it. Maybe I would have a different opinion at the time in which this article was written, I dunno.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

hito steyerl

After reading Steyerl’s essay regarding poor image, I would argue that 99% of the images that we look at are, to some degree, similar in nature to the image that she is describing. I would continue to argue that photographs are the poorest of all images. Probably the most widely distributed as well… and positively the most excessive. What constitutes a real image, in that case? I agree with Hito in her argument that once an image is put on the Internet it then belongs to the world, in a sense, and is at complete mercy of its compression, reproduction, and distribution. The image becomes debris, more or less. What we’ve begun to see, however, is the acceptance of this result, the exaggeration of this sacrifice. It’s the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach to the risky business that is cyberspace. The submission to this method of distribution doesn’t necessarily jeopardize the original, per say, but instead creates a parallel, a conversation about accessibility and transparency. The privilege of making images with “art status” inherently creates a harsh separation between author and audience. Poor images give the audience agency over the production. In this way, the need for the poor image allows for a participatory pool of creativity amongst those that would otherwise not consider their input valid. The deliberate creation of hierarchies that occur as a result of the insistence of optimal image quality is built upon the idea that an authors’ work will not hold up unless it is elevated into isolation. But what good does it do in that space? It is my belief that art should never be sacred. Art should be as widely spread as possible. Reserving it for reasons such as purity or preciousness only perpetuates its commodity status. After all, art serves little to no purpose. Why isolate it?