Posts Tagged ‘photographic traces

06
Jan
19

Exhibition: ‘Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image’ at the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati

Exhibition dates: 5th October 2018 – 10th February 2019

Curated by Steven Matijcio

 

 

Installation view, 'Akram Zaatari: The Fold - Space, time and the image' 2018

 

Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Damaged Negatives: Scratched Portraits of Mrs. Baqari' 2012

 

Akram Zaatari
Damaged Negatives: Scratched Portraits of Mrs. Baqari
2012
Made from 35mm scratched negative from the Hashem el Madani archive
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

 

“As a holistic specimen without fixed parameters, “An informed object,” Zaatari elaborates, “is an object that is conscious of the material and processes that produced it, conscious of its provenance, its morphology and displacement over time, conscious of its history in the sense that it is able to communicate it. An informed object is already materialised, activated.” His self-declared “displacement” of these objects is thusly not about post-colonial uprooting, but rather a deeper, wider recognition of the apparatus that informs the production, circulation and reception of such images in, and beyond their respective context/s. In this expanded field, negatives, contact sheets, glass plates, double exposures, mistakes, erosion and all that is habitually left on the cutting room floor are re-valued as revelatory anomalies with “something to say”.”

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Akram Zaatari quoted in Steven Matijcio / 2018

 

 

Alternate readings / elisions / a damaged life

This is the first posting of 2019, a new year, a new year of history, memory and life. And what a cracker of an exhibition to post first up!

I have always admired the Lebanese artist Akram Zaatari for the ability of his work to critique the inevitable, referential history of photographs. Anyone who can shine a light on forgotten narratives, histories, contexts and memories, who enlightens the fixed gaze of the camera and the viewer to show the Other, and who empowers the disenfranchised and tells their stories… is excellent in my eyes. For this is what Art Blart has sought to do in the last ten years: build an archive that exposes underrepresented artists and forgotten histories to the world.

Photography, and life, is not all that it seems… and Zaatari implicitly understands the conundrums of the taking, viewing and collecting of photographs in archives. He understands the physical quality of the medium (the presence of the negative, the glass slide, the print and their manipulation by the photographer) as well as the truth of the medium, a kind of truth telling – through history, time, the personal and the collective – that obscures as much as it reveals. As his short biography notes, “Akram Zaatari is an artist whose work is tied to collecting and exploring photographic practices in the making of social codes and aesthetic forms. Regarding the present through a wealth of photographic records from the past… Zaatari investigates notions of desire, pursuit, resistance, memory, surveillance, the shifting nature of political borders and the production and circulation of images in times of war.” Indeed, a rich investigative field which Zaatari makes full use of in his work.

Simply put, the project that Zaatari is undertaking is one of archaeological excavation / re-animation of the many aspects of the cultural geography of Lebanon, his role as auteur in this process combining “image-maker, archivist, curator, filmmaker and critical theorist to examine the photographic record, its making, genealogy and the role photography plays in the production and performance of identity.” (Wall text) “I’m really interested in how the personal and the intimate meet history,” Zaatari says. “What I’m doing is to write history, or [fill in] gaps of history, by using photographic documents.”1

Zaatari “deconstructs the archival impunity of photography to cultivate an expanded architecture of interpretation,” (Wall text) exploring the fold as a catalyst, a narrative, a re-organisation, an enduring obfuscation, and the memory of a material. What a photograph missed and what is present; what an archive catalogues and how, and what it misses, elides or denigrates (the classification system of an archive). As Rebecca Close observes, “The question of what an archive of the image fails to commemorate is particularly relevant in a country marred by decades of civil war and invasion.”2

It is also particularly relevant in a country (and a world) where men are in control. Zaatari interrogates (if I may use that pertinent word) the partitioning of history (between Palestine and Israel), the poses of decorum between male and female, the power of men in marriage, the stigma of homosexuality, male normativity, and “Zaatari’s framing of these photos (particularly as diminutive contact sheets) suggests modern cracks in the visual codification of patriarchal rule…” (Steven Matijcio) The centre cannot hold the weight of these hidden his/stories, as invisible “non-collections” (E. Edwards) in institutions are opened up for critical examination. The damage that accrues through such obfuscation, through such wilful blindness to the stories embedded in photographs is boundless.

What we must remember is that, “photography always lies for the photograph only depicts one version of reality, one version of a truth depending on what the camera is pointed at, what it excludes, who is pointing the camera and for what reasons, the context of the event or person being photographed (which is fluid from moment to moment) and the place and reason for displaying the photograph. In other words all photographs are, by the very nature, transgressive because they have only one visual perspective, only one line of sight – they exclude as much as they document and this exclusion can be seen as a volition (a choice of the photographer) and a violation of a visual ordering of the world (in the sense of the taxonomy of the subject, an upsetting of the normal order or hierarchy of the subject). Of course this line of sight may be interpreted in many ways and photography problematises the notion of a definitive reading of the image due to different contexts and the “possibilities of dislocation in time and space.” As Brian Wallis has observed, “The notion of an autonomous image is a fiction” as the photograph can be displaced from its original context and assimilated into other contexts where they can be exploited to various ends. In a sense this is also a form of autonomy because a photograph can be assimilated into an infinite number of contexts. “This de and re-contextualisation is itself transgressive of any “integrity” the photograph itself may have as a contextualised artefact.” As John Schwartz has insightfully noted, “[Photographs] carry important social consequences and that the facts they transmit in visual form must be understood in social space and real time,” “facts” that are constructions of reality that are interpreted differently by each viewer in each context of viewing.”3

I have no problem with the ethics and politics of the use of photo archives by contemporary artists and the appropriation of archival images as a form of “ironic archivization” to open up new critical insights into culture, and the culture of making, reading and archiving photographs. Zaatari appropriates these images for his own concerns to shine a light on what I call “the space between.” His interdisciplinary practice mines the history of the image while simultaneously expanding its legacy and life. As he observes of his profound and sensitive work, “Every photograph hides parts to reveal others… What a photograph missed and what was present at the time of exposure will remain inaccessible. In those folds lies a history, many histories.” With this powerhouse of an artist, these histories will not remain hidden for long.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Venema, Vibeke . “Zaatari and Madani: Guns, flared trousers and same-sex kisses,” on the BBC News Magazine website 17 February 2014 [Online] Cited 07/12/2108
  2. Close, Rebecca. Akram Zaatari [online]. ArtAsiaPacific, No. 104, Jul/Aug 2017: 108. ISSN: 1039-3625 [Online] Cited 07/12/2108
  3. Bunyan, Marcus. “Transgressive Topographies, Subversive Photographies, Cultural Policies,” on Art Blart, October 2013 [Online] Cited 07/12/2108

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Many thankx to Akram Zaatari and the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Acclaimed Lebanese artist Akram Zaatari combines the roles of image-maker, archivist, curator, filmmaker and critical theorist to explore the role photography plays in both instituting and fabricating identity. He is also co-founder of the Arab Image Foundation (AIF), an organisation established in Beirut to preserve, study and exhibit photographs from the Middle East, North Africa and the Arab diaspora from the 19th century to today. Within this endeavour Zaatari discovered the photographs of Hashem El Madani (1928-2017), who recorded the lives of everyday individuals inside and outside his humble studio in the late 1940s and 50s. Zaatari recontextualises this work, along with other archival photos and documents, in an interdisciplinary practice that mines the history of the image while simultaneously expanding its legacy and life. His work is both for and against photography, and the complex histories it cobbles.

For this exhibition he positions the seemingly simple fold as a narrative form, a reorganisation, an enduring obfuscation and the memory of material. In his words, “a photograph captures space and folds it into a flat image, turning parts of a scene against others, covering them entirely. Every photograph hides parts to reveal others… What a photograph missed and what was present at the time of exposure will remain inaccessible. In those folds lies a history, many histories.” The work on display will attempt to uncover and imagine these stories, undertaking a provocative archaeology that peers into the fissures, scratches, erosion and that which archives previously shed.

Presented in partnership with FotoFocus Biennial 2018. Text from the Contemporary Arts Center website

 

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Damaged Negatives: Scratched Portrait of an anonymous woman' 2012

 

Akram Zaatari
Damaged Negatives: Scratched Portrait of an anonymous woman
2012
Made from 35mm scratched negative from the Hashem el Madani archive
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Damaged Negatives: Scratched Portraits of Mrs. Baqari and her friend' 2012

 

Akram Zaatari
Damaged Negatives: Scratched Portraits of Mrs. Baqari and her friend
2012
Made from 35mm scratched negatives from the Hashem el Madani archive
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Hands at Rest' (video still) 2017

Akram Zaatari. 'Hands at Rest' (video still) 2017

 

Akram Zaatari
Hands at Rest (video stills)
2017
SD Video / Running time: 7:30
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

 

This film is a meditative study of a  selection of studio photographs culled from Lebanese photographer Hashem el Madani’s archives. In response to Madani’s maxim that “posing one’s hands on a flat surface such as a table, or a shoulder helps to straighten one’s shoulders,” Zaatari looks closely from one hand to the next, creating a portrait of Lebanese society that implicitly questions the politics embedded in poses of propriety and decorum. Fingers fitted with rings and bodies displaying the comfort and composure of a certain class are juxtaposed with others indicative of manual labor and untrained modelling. The slow, but precise inventory of the video, devoted to the most tactile limb in one’s body, also elicits the ever-present sensuality which circulates throughout Madani’s photographs. (Wall text)

 

Akram Zaatari. Najm (left) and Asmar (right) 1950-1959, Lebanon, Saida. Hashem el Madani From Akram Zaatari's 'Objects of Study/The archive of Studio Shehrazade/Hashem el Madani/Studio Practices' 2014

 

Akram Zaatari
Najm (left) and Asmar (right) 1950-1959, Lebanon, Saida. Hashem el Madani
From Akram Zaatari’s Objects of Study/The archive of Studio Shehrazade/Hashem el Madani/Studio Practices
2014
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
© A. Zaatari/Arab Image Foundation
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

 

Zaatari says that was normal in the 1950s. “If you had your picture taken you would seize the opportunity to create something different of yourself,” he says. “They wanted to look at themselves as if they were looking at an actor in a film.” It was fun.

Movies were a great source of inspiration for Madani’s sitters. This included acting out a kiss – but only men kissing men and women kissing women. “In a conservative society such as Saida, people were willing to play the kiss between two people of the same sex, but very rarely between a man and a woman,” Madani told Zaatari. He remembers that happening only once.

“If you look at it today you think – is it gay culture? But in fact it is not,” says Zaatari. Social restrictions were different then. “If you wanted to kiss it had to be a same-sex kiss to be accepted.”

Men showed off their photos, but for women a picture was considered intimate and would only be shared with a trusted few. Madani had purposely found a studio space on the first floor, so that women could visit discreetly – seen entering at street level, their destination would not be obvious. Once inside, they could relax – but it did not always end well.

Extract from Vibeke Venema. “Zaatari and Madani: Guns, flared trousers and same-sex kisses,” on the BBC News Magazine website 17 February 2014 [Online] Cited 07/12/2108

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Bodybuilders Printed From A Damaged Negative' 2011

 

Akram Zaatari
Bodybuilders Printed From A Damaged Negative
2011
C-print
145 x 220cm
Ed 5 + 2AP
© Akram Zaatari

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Bodybuilders, Printed From A Damaged Negative Showing From Left To Right: Hassan El Aakkad, Munir El Dada And Mahmoud El Dimassy In Saida, 1948' 2011

 

Akram Zaatari
Bodybuilders, Printed From A Damaged Negative Showing From Left To Right: Hassan El Aakkad, Munir El Dada And Mahmoud El Dimassy In Saida, 1948
2011
C-print
145 x 220cm
Ed 5 + 2AP
© Akram Zaatari

 

 

American Psychological Association links ‘masculinity ideology’ to homophobia, misogyny

For the first time in its 127-year history, the American Psychological Association has issued guidelines to help psychologists specifically address the issues of men and boys – and the 36-page document features a warning.

“Traditional masculinity ideology has been shown to limit males’ psychological development, constrain their behaviour, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict and negatively influence mental health and physical health,” the report warns.

The new “Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men” defines “masculinity ideology” as “a particular constellation of standards that have held sway over large segments of the population, including: anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence.” The report also links this ideology to homophobia, bullying and sexual harassment.

The new guidelines, highlighted in this month’s issue of Monitor on Psychology, which is published by the APA, linked this ideology to a series of stark statistics: Men commit approximately 90 percent of all homicides in the U.S., they are far more likely than women to be arrested and charged with intimate partner violence in the U.S., and they are four times more likely than women to die of suicide worldwide. …

The report addresses the “power” and “privilege” that males have when compared to their female counterparts, but it notes that this privilege can be a psychological double-edged sword.

“Men who benefit from their social power are also confined by system-level policies and practices as well as individual-level psychological resources necessary to maintain male privilege,” the guidelines state. “Thus, male privilege often comes with a cost in the form of adherence to sexist ideologies designed to maintain male power that also restrict men’s ability to function adaptively.”

Extract from Tim Fitzsimons. “American Psychological Association links ‘masculinity ideology’ to homophobia, misogyny,” on the NBC News website [Online] Cited 10/01/2019

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Bodybuilders, Printed From A Damaged Negative Showing Hassan El Aakkad In Saida, 1948' 2007

 

Akram Zaatari
Bodybuilders, Printed From A Damaged Negative Showing Hassan El Aakkad In Saida, 1948
2007
C-print
220 x 145cm
Ed 5 + 2AP
© Akram Zaatari

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Bodybuilders Printed From A Damaged Negative' 2011

 

Akram Zaatari
Bodybuilders Printed From A Damaged Negative
2011
C-print
Ed 5 + 2AP
220 x 145cm
© Akram Zaatari

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Bodybuilders Printed From A Damaged Negative' 2011

 

Akram Zaatari
Bodybuilders Printed From A Damaged Negative
2011
C-print
220 x 145cm
Ed 5 + 2AP
© Akram Zaatari

 

 

The Fold

The fold is the pleat that results from turning or bending part of material against another such as in textile, paper or even earth strata. The fold is the trace that such an action leaves on material, the crease that marks the location of turning and pressing.

Inherent in the action of folding, is that material is turned or moved in three dimensions hence engages with space. Folding is the basic and simplest step in creating form or enclosure. It confines space within folds. It covers parts with other parts. Folding is editing. It is a construction that does not look like its original form.

Unfolding is undoing, deconstructing, turning material back to its initial form. The creases in an unfolded material inscribe its history and in a way save it from amnesia. History inscribes itself on material in creases and in other forms. When unfolded, material testifies that history has already found its way to it, through the fold.

The fold is the memory of material.

When the fold is intentional, it aims to reorganise material to reduce its volume, to create form, or confine space. When accidental or natural such as in geology, or due to ageing organic matter, the fold is a permanent deformation of matter the form of which remains little predictable.

When intentional, the fold is a creative action, like folding a paper sheet into a paper airplane or an origami, like folding several sheets into a book, or a sheet of cardboard into a box or even folding clothes to reduce their volume and store them on a shelf or in a box of specific dimensions.

The fold is a narrative form.

In a way every photograph is an exposure of a field of vision, of something somewhere. Like folding confines space, a photograph captures space and folds into a flat image, turning parts of a scene against others covering them entirely. Every photograph hides parts to reveal others. Every photograph reproduces in small what’s much larger in life, or brings close an image of somewhere far and out of sight. The impact of a fold in a photographed space is permanent, in the sense that hidden parts in a picture are irretrievable. What a photograph missed and that was present at the time of exposure will remain inaccessible. In those folds lies a history, many histories.

The fold in a photograph is a detail through which a narrative different from that narrated by the photograph unfolds. It is an element through which the initial construction of a photograph, its making, is undone. It is an element that bears the history of a photograph, its memory.

The fold in time is the representation of time shortened, like in literature, in illustration or typically in film. The fold in time is the ellipsis. The fold within a narrative is the jump-cut or the jump in time. The fold acknowledges the existence of hidden narratives covered by others. In a film, the cut is the fold.

Akram Zaatari

 

General installation views

Installation view, 'Akram Zaatari: The Fold - Space, time and the image'

Installation view, 'Akram Zaatari: The Fold - Space, time and the image'

Installation view, 'Akram Zaatari: The Fold - Space, time and the image'

Installation view, 'Akram Zaatari: The Fold - Space, time and the image'

 

Installation views, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

 

Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Left
Akram Zaatari
[Unlabelled]
Cairo, Egypt 1940s
Inkjet print of gelatin silver negative on cellulose acetate film
Photographer: Alban
Courtesy of the Arab Image Foundation

 

A negative for photography is equivalent to an engraved zinc plate for traditional print-making. Not only does it allow for the reproduction of the image or print but it itself carrier traces of the tricks the photographer has used while making a picture. As such, photographers did not want their negatives to be displayed because they often carried details the studio might not want to share with the public. The portrait of a baby was made by the Cairo based photographer Alban in the 1940s. Access to the negative tells us that the baby was held by his mother and that she was later withdrawn from the picture (Wall text)

 

Right
Akram Zaatari
[Unlabelled]
Tripoli, Lebanon 1980s
Inkjet print of gelatin silver negative on cellulose acetate film
Photographer: Joseph Avedissian
Collection: Joseph Avedissian
Courtesy of the Arab Image Foundation

 

At at time when going to a photography studio was the only way for people to be photographed for ID or other official purposes, these spaces were shared by a wide spectrum of society. During the Lebanese civil war, they were sometimes employed by opposing militias and certainly by civilians as well. Joseph Avedissian set up his first studio in the late 1950s in al Tell in Tripoli, North Lebanon. Like most inner cities during the civil war in Lebanon, al Tell was the playground of numerous militias ranging from the different Palestinian factions and the Syrian army extending to the Al Tawheed Islamic group in the 1980s. Zaatari visited Avedissian’s with the photographer Randa Saath in 2002. Thousands of negative sheets covered the floor, from where he picked up this sheet that represents one member of the local militia posing with his machine gun. Because of poor preservation, however, a patch of emulsion coming from another exposed negative was accidentally bound to it depicting a woman. The result is an uneasy co-habitation in the shared frame. (Wall text)

 

The End of Love

Akram Zaatari. 'The End of Love' 2013 (installation view)

 

Akram Zaatari
The End of Love (installation view)
2013
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'The End of Love' 2013 (installation view)

 

Akram Zaatari
The End of Love (installation view)
2013
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'The End of Love' 2013 (installation view)

 

Akram Zaatari
The End of Love (installation view detail)
2013
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'The End of Love' 2013 (installation view)

 

Akram Zaatari

The End of Love (installation view detail)
2013
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'The End of Love' 2013 (installation view)

 

Akram Zaatari
The End of Love (installation view detail)
2013
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

 

Every photograph hides parts to reveal others…

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Akram Zaatari

 

 

Desire for the archive as an unassailable repository of documents, testimony and truth seems to escalate despite, or perhaps because of, the more imminent reality that there is no singular history on which all peoples can agree. And while the “post-truth” era feels pandemic in North America, in other parts of the world this is an all too familiar paradigm where the manipulation of the past is a customary practice to administer the present, and influence the future. This is especially true of Lebanon, where fifteen years of malignant civil war from 1975-1990 has produced a knotty, contested history riddled with sectarian animosities, institutionalised amnesia, and ubiquitous uncertainty. And yet when nothing is solid, codified or certain, everything becomes possible. Across the Middle East where formal archives remain partial and at risk, an increasing number of artists employ the fragments as fodder for new forms of historical preservation and production. Akram Zaatari (b. 1966 Sidon, Lebanon) is a pioneer within this amorphous terrain, marrying personal experiences of the war, an abiding interest in the vernacular performance of identity via photo and film and a quasi-archaeological treatment of lens-based documents as artefacts. Beyond his individual practice, one of Zaatari’s greatest, most enduring contributions in this field may be the Arab Image Foundation (AIF) – an archival institution he co-founded with photographers Fouad Elkoury and Samer Mahdad in 1997 to self-declaredly “preserve, study and exhibit photographs from the Middle East, North Africa and the Arab diaspora from the 19th century to today.” And while the AIF has successfully amassed over 600,000 images from multiple countries and eras, Zaatari adamantly refutes the onset of institutionalisation – shunning the paralysing conservation practices of museums and libraries to double down on a more radical, generative employment of these materials. In his hands, this archive moves beyond a delicate commodity to circulate as a mutable constellation that partakes in an expanded field of histories with cumulative socio-cultural cargo. As such, the archive can be seen as both Zaatari’s medium and subject, and the AIF as both his fuel and foil – collecting and re-presenting photos as “a form,” in his words, “of creative un-making and re-writing that is no less important than the act of taking images.” Ensuing questions of authorship and appropriation yield to more multi-faceted strategies of displacement, where the re-framing of photos and films as living, changing vessels unfurls invigorating new layers and folds to mine and forage.

He does so, not as an iconoclast seeking to condemn archives as cogs in the machine of hegemony, but rather as a revitalising gesture that replaces rhetorical manipulations with emancipated re-assignment. For Zaatari, this frisson happens most intriguingly in the seemingly ordinary and banal, in the snapshots and mistakes archives historically diminish, where he argues, “It is a misconception that photographs testify to the course of history. It is history that inhabits photographs.” As such, Zaatari regularly subverts the canonical treatment of photos as evidentiary relics hidden away in cold storage to slow their inherent/inevitable chemical entropy. He instead treats images as susceptible material objects, and one could argue, as surrogates for the subjects and structures they depict. Much like the wrinkles, scars and repressions that the human body + mind collects, Zaatari reads the folds endemic to photography as a palimpsest of information and suggestion. Whether it be a purposeful edit or crop, an aesthetic gesture to redirect our viewing, or the natural degradation of materials over time, he argues that “The fold in a photograph is a detail through which a narrative different from that narrated by the photograph unfolds.” As fertile superstructures that expand the interpretive constitution of said photos, such folds are less obfuscations than nascent fonts for alternative narratives to percolate. “In these folds lies a history…” according to Zaatari, “many histories.” In this inclusive arena, the micro and macro flow into one another as citizen and state intermingle, and one discovers pockets of collective history in the pictures we have of ourselves and one another. These photos and their attendant folds do not float unattached in clouds, but instead coalesce as archives of their making, and lenses to look backward and forward.

In his position that “the traces that transactions leave on a photographic object become part of it,” Zaatari argues that the physical manufacture and decay of a photograph (or film) is as much a contribution to history as that which it depicts. He calls the ensuing composites “informed objects,” which, while partial or possibly broken, highlight the greater whole “like an exploded view of a machine,” or “a model of the human body used in anatomy class.” As a holistic specimen without fixed parameters, “An informed object,” Zaatari elaborates, “is an object that is conscious of the material and processes that produced it, conscious of its provenance, its morphology and displacement over time, conscious of its history in the sense that it is able to communicate it. An informed object is already materialised, activated.” His self-declared “displacement” of these objects is thusly not about post-colonial uprooting, but rather a deeper, wider recognition of the apparatus that informs the production, circulation and reception of such images in, and beyond their respective context/s. In this expanded field, negatives, contact sheets, glass plates, double exposures, mistakes, erosion and all that is habitually left on the cutting room floor are re-valued as revelatory anomalies with “something to say.” Zaatari’s poignant 2017 series A Photographer’s Shadow is a case in point, presenting a number of historical photos where the cameraman’s shadow has infiltrated the composition, which was historically reason to throw the picture away. In Zaatari’s revised appraisal, however, such discards are instead accentuated as elucidating nexus points where author and subject meet within the frame. A diptych of found photos Zaatari premieres in the CAC exhibition thickens this premise even further, displaying a malfunction in the camera of Hashem el Madani (1928-2017) that led to an in-frame doubling of men (presumably father and son) standing upon the rocks of a swelling shoreline. Evoking past hallmarks of romantic painting, a multiplicity gathers with equal muster across this pairing as the images coagulate with the residue and implication of generational, production and art historical lineage. The cresting physicality of this informed object is pushed even further in the 2017 work Against Photography, which removes the image from the equation to instead detail the natural patterns of environmental decay upon a series of 12 photo plates. By extracting the traditional focal point of the photographic process, Zaatari instead surveys iterations of deterioration that take on an uncanny beauty in multiple media – turning the archival chimera of folds and fracture into a verdant topography of patterns, avenues, and stories untold.

The continued consideration of the photograph as a physical entity with corresponding history, memory and lifespan connects to Zaatari’s ongoing exploration of the human body as it is performed for, and by the camera. As an index of experience and identity, the body and its photographic proxy find a surrogate-like relationship in the images he provocatively re-frames – where intimate narratives are gleaned from voluminous collections and otherwise numbing aggregates. And while we are only sometimes privy to the background and/or the names of those photographed, Zaatari is a long-standing student of the ways in which gender, sexuality and taboo are concurrently codified and obscured by indigenous photographic practices. By re-contextualising private photos in a public arena, Zaatari “frequently composes works,” according to Professor Mark Westmoreland, “that force the photographic medium to comment upon social aesthetics that it has been deployed to produce at different historical moments.” A compelling example is found in Zaatari’s 2011 re-presentation of Madani’s timeworn photographs of male bodybuilders performing feats of both physical strength and acrobatic agility in a showcase of masculine prowess. Inferences to homo-eroticism within this display were comparatively forbidden; and, while we must resist the temptation to define historical images through the lens of today, the entropic folds highlighted in Zaatari’s framing of these photos (particularly as diminutive contact sheets) suggests modern cracks in the visual codification of patriarchal rule, male normativity, and the stigma of homosexuality. Like the photographer’s shadow that interrupts the self-contained world of his subjects in Zaatari’s aforementioned work, the humbling eclipse that befalls many an ideology and monument creep over a pantheon of bravado here. The violent exercise of patriarchal custody is on frightening display in Zaatari’s 2012 diptych Damaged Negatives: Scratched Portraits of Mrs. Baqari and her friend, where otherwise benign photographs of two young women are marred by a flurry of black scratches. These disturbing scars are the product of a controlling husband who demanded Madani lacerate the negatives of a portrait session initiated by his wife before they were married. Years later, after Mrs. Baqari burned herself to death to escape his control, the widowed husband came back to Madani’s studio asking for enlargements of these photos. Their display decades later under the auspices of this exhibition demonstrates the extraordinary valence of the fold, which in this case manifests a tragic relationship, evokes the history of effigies and iconoclasm, embodies the systematic societal violence against women, and opens up a plethora of readings that could not exist without slashes that span both object and subject.

The social life of the informed objects that Zaatari presents thereby opens a larger sociological discourse which, in the case of Lebanon, speaks to the ways love and sexuality have been regulated – and liberated – via photography and film. He traces the visual trajectory of this contested history largely by way of Madani’s studio photography, which pictured thousands of people over the course of almost half a century in Zaatari’s hometown of Saida. The ensuing photos demonstrate a complex spectrum of desire as people moved across both sides of the state-sanctioned line, performing the love they coveted and that which they concealed. As a site of concurrent fantasy and societal uniformity, what genders, professions, events and relationships were prescribed to “look like” created an orthodoxy of both restrictions and their corresponding transgressions. In The End of Love (2013), Zaatari presents over 100 photos of wedding portraits taken in Madani’s studio that collectively illustrate the codes surrounding this classic trope. Kissing was forbidden for such a photo which, in Lebanon, was taken a week after the ceremony with the bride wearing her wedding dress, supplemented by a bouquet of plastic flowers and white gloves provided by the photographer. And while the ensuing images are stiff, sober and highly formulaic, this End of Love is not a cynical farewell to the romantic aura of marriage, but rather a site where ideals collect in the margins, in aspirations that exceed both the subject and frame. Much like Arthur Danto’s post-historical 1984 essay “The End of Art,” Zaatari’s collection implies the exhaustion of a particular lineage of love and the opening of a chaotic, open-ended eddy where de-regulated desire could be performed. Madani’s studio was the site and catalyst for many of these performances; but, in this exhibition Zaatari pairs The End of Love with the aspiration of his 2010 video Tomorrow Everything will be Alright, in which a proposed reunion of estranged lovers is told in the form of typewritten dialogue. The voices here remain anonymous throughout, much like the many couples in The End of Love, and we gradually learn that these contemporary, same-sex lovers speak in prose drawn from popular cinematic clichés. Their conflicted flirtation culminates in the familiar romantic trope of a sunset at seashore, and more specifically that portrayed in the 1986 film Le Rayon Vert in which a disillusioned woman’s faith in love is restored after she sees a green flash at twilight. And yet, despite the overt homage, the time stamp in the bottom corner of Zaatari’s version implies this is his personal footage. And, that amidst many formulae, clichés and the already said, in the seams between The End of Love and Tomorrow Everything will be Alright, something unique and human can be spoken.

In contrast to the charge that photos are moments plucked out of time – slowly staving off death in the airless preservation of archives – Zaatari re-situates photos entrusted to the AIF in a multiplied field that spans origins and invention. Rather than entrenching images with fixed historical assignments, he performs subtle interventions to uncover and suggest alternate readings that inject life into said objects. As a stirring case in point, Un-Dividing History (2017) merges historical images by Khalil Raad (1854-1957), a Palestinian from Jerusalem, and Yacov Ben Dov (1882-1968), a Zionist-Ukrainian filmmaker and photographer, who dually inhabited Jerusalem from 1907-1948 but “belonged,” in Zaatari’s words, “to completely different universes.” Glass photo plates from each of these men had been acquired into a private collection years later and stored against each other for over a half-century in the same position, slowly and mutually “contaminating” one another with the opposing image. Zaatari’s cyanotypes reveal these beautifully compromised hybrids, depicting “traces of one world inscribed into another,” and symbolically de-partitioning the tragic schisms/folds that have long scarred this population and place. This grid of 8 images is not one of easy, idealistic harmony, but rather a complex, messy, fundamentally human portrait of the way lives intersect and overlap, if only they are allowed. A related moment of extraordinary, stirring empathy is found in the 2013 project Letter to a Refusing Pilot, in which Zaatari realises the rumour of Hagai Tamir, an Israeli fighter pilot, who in 1982, during his country’s invasion of Lebanon, disobeyed the order to drop a bomb on what he knew to be a schoolhouse. The legend, and Zaatari’s ensuing interview with Tamir have taken multiple forms in the translation to art, most notably paper planes that have appeared in both video and physical form, floating across terrain that spans real and virtual, truth and myth. What in theory started as a description, or a document, or a letter, has thereby taken flight via multiple folds – transforming this story into a mutable vessel that lands often, but temporarily – its ultimate destination indeterminate. In this lightness of being and itinerant course, the paper plane embodies Zaatari’s affinity for ephemeral records rather than the weighted gravity of archives. These are images, objects, videos, memories and outtakes that bear creases, evince life, and find renewal in each and every reappraisal.

Steven Matijcio / 2018

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Tomorrow Everything will be Alright' 2010 (installation view)

 

Akram Zaatari
Tomorrow Everything will be Alright
2010
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Tomorrow Everything will be Alright' (video still) 2010

 

Akram Zaatari
Tomorrow Everything will be Alright (video still)
2010
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Tomorrow Everything will be Alright' (video still) 2010

 

Akram Zaatari
Tomorrow Everything will be Alright (video still)
2010
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

 

Akram Zaatari
Tomorrow everything will be alright
2010

 

 

Akram Zaatari was born in 1966, in Sidon, Lebanon and currently lives in Beirut. Zaatari works in photography, video, and performance to explore issues pertinent to the Lebanese postwar condition, specifically the mediation of territorial conflicts and wars though television and media. Zaatari collects and examines a wide range of documents that testify to the cultural and political conditions of Lebanon’s postwar society. His artistic practice involves the study and investigation of the way these documents straddle, conflate, or confuse notions of history and memory. By analysing and recontextualising found audiotapes, video footage, photographs, journals, personal collections, interviews, and recollections, Zaatari explores the dynamics that govern the state of image-making in situations of war. The strength of Zaatari’s work lies in its ability to capture fractured moments in time, even if these sometimes confuse because of their disconnect from the audience and lack of context. Regardless, the stories hold their own as fascinating narratives, managing to reflect on such universal themes as love and lust, and sweet reminiscence, even amidst turbulent political realities. The indie film was nominated for the teddy award for best short film in 2011.

 

Akram Zaatari
Letter to a Refusing Pilot 1
2013

 

 

Akram Zaatari
Letter to a Refusing Pilot 2
2013

 

 

Akram Zaatari
Letter to a Refusing Pilot 3
2013

 

 

Akram Zaatari
Letter to a Refusing Pilot4
2013

 

 

Akram Zaatari
Letter to a Refusing Pilot 5
2013

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Letter to a Refusing Pilot' (installation view) 2013

 

Akram Zaatari
Letter to a Refusing Pilot (installation view)
2013
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

 

In the summer of 1982, a rumour made the rounds of a small city in South Lebanon, which was under Israeli occupation at the time. It was said that a fighter pilot in the Israeli air force had been ordered to bomb a target on the outskirts of Saida, but knowing the building was a school, he refused to destroy it. Instead of carrying out his commanders’ orders, the pilot veered off course and dropped his bombs in the sea. It was said that he knew the school because he had been a student there, because his family had lived in the city for generations, because he was born into Saida’s Jewish community before it disappeared. As a boy, Akram Zaatari grew up hearing ever more elaborate versions of this story, as his father had been the director of the school for twenty years. Decades later, Zaatari discovered it wasn’t a rumour. The pilot was real. Pulling together all of the different strands of Zaatari’s practice for the first time in a single work, Letter to a Refusing Pilot reflects on the complexities, ambiguities, and consequences of refusal as a decisive and generative act. Taking as its title a nod to Albert Camus’ four-part epistolary essay “Letters to a German Friend,” the work not only extends Zaatari’s interest in excavated narratives and the circulation of images in times of war, it also raises crucial questions about national representation and perpetual crisis by reviving Camus’s plea: “I should like to be able to love my country and still love justice.”

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Against Photography' (installation view) 2017

 

Akram Zaatari
Against Photography (installation view)
2017
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

 

In an October 2012 interview with anthropologist Mark Westmoreland, Zaatari further probed whether emotions can be preserved with pictures. The difficulty in resolving the matter perhaps motivated the artist’s move into increasingly abstract terrain. The exhibition’s titular work confirms Zaatari’s current reticent position. Against Photography (2017) – 12 aluminium engravings produced from weathered negatives scanned and then put through a 3D scanner that records only surface texture – withdraws from the image entirely, leaving behind only the shine of relief.

Close, Rebecca. Akram Zaatari [online]. ArtAsiaPacific, No. 104, Jul/Aug 2017: 108. ISSN: 1039-3625. [cited 07 Dec 18]

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Against Photography' (installation view) 2017

 

Akram Zaatari
Against Photography (installation view detail)
2017
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

 

Akram Zaatari

Against Photography (installation view, right)
2017
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Against Photography' (installation view) 2017

 

Akram Zaatari
Against Photography (installation view detail)
2017
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Against Photography' (installation view) 2017

 

Akram Zaatari
Against Photography (installation view detail)
2017
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Installation view, 'Akram Zaatari: The Fold - Space, time and the image'

 

Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image with at left, Un-Dividing History 2017
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Un-Dividing History' (installation view) 2017

 

Akram Zaatari
Un-Dividing History (installation view)
2017
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

 

These cyanotypes merge two bodies of work from a collection which is no longer in the Arab Image Foundation’s custody, and which consisted of glass plates of Khalil Raad, a photographer from Jerusalem, and those of Yacov Ben Dov, a Zionist filmmaker and photographer of Ukrainian descent. Raad and Ben Dov shared the same city, Jerusalem, but belonged to completely different universes. Zaatari conceived this series as a statement against partitioning history. As the glass plates were stored against each other for over 50 years in the same position, each plate was contaminated by the plate it was leaning against. The cyanotypes depict traces of a world impressed onto another and speak of the ineluctable shared history of Palestine and Israel, safeguarded by a passionate collector. (Text from the Sfeir-Semler Gallery website)

 

Akram Zaatari. 'Un-Dividing History' (details) 2017

Akram Zaatari. 'Un-Dividing History' (details) 2017

Akram Zaatari. 'Un-Dividing History' (details) 2017

 

Akram Zaatari
Un-Dividing History (details)
2017

 

Akram Zaatari. 'History' (detail) 2018

 

Akram Zaatari
History (detail)
2018
Installation view, Akram Zaatari: The Fold – Space, time and the image
© Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, 2018
Photo: Tony Walsh

 

History retraces Zaatari’s pursuit of damaged, erased, withdrawn or scrapped off photographic descriptions from the nineties until the present day. The earliest is a self-portrait he made in 1993, and the most recent are part of Photographic Phenomena, 2018 series.

 

 

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03
Jul
14

Exhibition: ‘Ana Mendieta: Traces’ at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Exhibition dates: 29th March – 6th July 2014

 

If I had half of this artists courage, I might not even have a quarter of her talent.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Museum der Moderne Salzburg for allowing me to publish the photographs and text in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

View the catalogue essays Ana Mendieta: Traces by Stephanie Rosenthal and Embers by Adrian Heathfield (2.66Mb pdf)

 

 

“Art is a material act of culture, but its greatest value is its spiritual role, and that influences society, because it’s the greatest contribution to the intellectual and moral development of humanity that can be made”

“My art is grounded on the belief in one universal energy which runs through everything; from insect to man, from man to spectre, from spectre to plant, from plant to galaxy.”

“To me, the work has existed on different levels. It existed on the level of being in nature and eventually being eroded away. But obviously when it’s shown to someone as a photograph, that’s what it is.”

.
Ana Mendieta

 

The few women working with the body at that time were in instant affinity with each other… The struggle for all of us was to keep the sensuousness of the body and to de-eroticize it in terms of cultural expectations. It was gratifying and exciting to discover her work. Those of us who had already been situating the body as central to our visual aesthetic could also anticipate the resistance that would be around her.

I see her death as part of some larger denial of the feminine. Like a huge metaphor saying, we don’t want this depth of feminine eroticism, nature, absorption, integration to happen. It’s too organic. It’s too sacral. In a way, her death also has a symbolic trajectory. More than Ana dies, when she dies.”

.
Carolee Schneeman quoted in Camhi, Leslie. “ART; Her Body, Herself,” on the New York Times website published June 20, 2004 [Online] Cited 20/06/2014

 

“You do feel the sadness that she’s not with us and you wonder where she would have gone with her work.”

.
Raquelin
 Mendieta

 

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Facial Cosmetic Variations)' (detail) 1972

 

Ana Mendieta
Untitled (Facial Cosmetic Variations)
(detail)
1972
Suite of eight color photographs (estate prints, 1997)
Each 50.8 x 40.6 cm
The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection; courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Facial Hair Transplant)' 1972

 

Ana Mendieta
Untitled (Facial Hair Transplant)
1972
Suite of seven colour photographs, estate prints 1997
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Rape' 1973

 

Ana Mendieta
Rape
1973
Color photograph (lifetime print)
20.4 x 25.4 cm
The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection; courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Rape Scene' 1973

 

Ana Mendieta
Rape Scene
1973
Color photograph (lifetime print)
39.8 x 31 x 3.2 cm (framed)
Tate: Presented by the American Patrons of Tate, courtesy of the Latin American Acquisitions Committee 2010

 

Rape Scene (1973) was part of series of works devised in response to the rape and murder of a fellow student on the Iowa University campus, where Mendieta completed her BA, MA (painting) and an MFA (inter-media). She invited friends and fellow students to her apartment. The viewer entered through a slightly ajar door into a dark apartment into a room where the artist appeared under a single source of light revealing Mendieta stripped from the waist down. The artist stood slouched and bound over a table, nude from the waist down with her body smeared in blood. Around her was an assemblage of broken plates and blood on the floor. Her direct identification with a specific victim meant that she could not be seen as an anonymous object in a theatrical tableau.

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Self-Portrait with Blood)' (detail) 1973

 

Ana Mendieta
Untitled (Self-Portrait with Blood)
(detail)
1973
Suite of six color photographs (estate prints 1997)
Each 50.8 x 40.6 cm
Private collection, London; Courtesy Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Body Tracks)' 1974

 

Ana Mendieta
Untitled (Body Tracks)
1974
Colour photograph, lifetime print
Collection of Igor DaCosta
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Glass on Body Imprints)' 1972

 

Ana Mendieta
Untitled (Glass on Body Imprints)
1972
Suite of six colour photographs, estate prints
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled' 1973

 

Ana Mendieta
Untitled
1973
Lifetime colour photograph
Collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, T. B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2011
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Blood and Feathers #2' 1974

 

Ana Mendieta
Blood and Feathers #2
1974
Colour photograph, lifetime print
Collection Raquelín Mendieta Family Trust
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Imagen de Yagul' 1973

 

Ana Mendieta
Imagen de Yagul
1973
Lifetime colour photograph
Glenstone
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

 

“Ana Mendieta: Traces is the first comprehensive survey of this influential artist’s work to be presented in Great Britain or the German-speaking world. It persuasively demonstrates that her art, while very much rooted in the concerns of her day, maintains a powerful connection to our present moment. Born in Cuba in 1948, Mendieta was forced to immigrate to the United States as a child due to her father’s political situation, and much of her work is obliquely haunted by the exile’s sense of displacement, while also reflecting her position as a double minority in North America’s largely white, male art world of the 1970s and 1980s. From the beginning, motifs of transience, absence, violence, belonging, and an identity in flux animated her multidisciplinary art, which ranged nomadically across practices associated with body art, land art, performance, sculpture, photography and film. At its core lay her recurring use of her own body – its physical and photographic traces – and her interest in marginal outdoor sites and elemental materials.

Spanning her brief, yet remarkably productive, career, this exhibition explores the many distinct facets of her practice. It captures her powerfully visceral evocation of ritual and sacrifice, as well as cycles of life and decay, while also highlighting her pioneering role as a conceptual border-crosser. Including photographs, drawings, sculptures, Super-8 films and a substantial selection of photographic slides, most of which have not been exhibited until now, Ana Mendieta: Traces reveals an artist whose underlying concerns led her to bravely re-work and re-combine genres, to draw on different cultures, both archaic and contemporary, while challenging the limits of the art discourse of her time. Her work continues to profoundly challenge, disturb, influence and inspire.

The Museum der Moderne Salzburg will open an extensive retrospective of the work of Ana Mendieta, one of our era’s most important and influential artists. Mendieta was born to a politically active family in Havana, Cuba in 1948. In the wake of the Cuban revolution, when she was only twelve years old, her parents sent her together with her sister to the United States. In 1985, at just thirty-six years old, she died under tragic circumstance in New York. During her short yet prolific career, she developed a unique visual language that is mesmerizing in its intimacy, and equally challenging. Her pioneering work has been acknowledged by large retrospectives in the United States and Europe, and is represented in the collections of major museums.

According to Sabine Breitwieser, director at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, who has arranged the exhibition, “a comprehensive exhibition in the German-speaking area, especially in Austria, and the German monograph on Ana Mendieta are long overdue. The artist’s distinctive work, in which she stages her body within the landscape, seems to be ideally exhibited at this site, where nature and the theatrical take on such a major role. Due to the fragility of the work, this could possibly be one of the last extensive Mendieta exhibitions.”

Among the central themes in Mendieta’s artistic work are exile and cultural displacement. In her search for identity and finding her place in the world, she attempted to create a dialogue between the landscape and the female body. Her work reveals numerous points of contingency with the emerging art movements of the 1960s and 1970s – Conceptual art, land art, and performance art. Nonetheless, it refuses any kind of categorization and instead addresses missing links or gaps between different media and art forms. “Through my art I want to express the immediacy of life and the eternity of nature,” wrote Mendieta in 1981. Using her own body and elementary materials, such as blood, fire, earth, and water, she created transitory pieces that combine rituals with metaphors for life, death, rebirth, and spiritual transformation. Her disembodied “earth body” sculptures were private, meditative ceremonies in nature documented in the form of slides and films. From them, Mendieta developed the so-called Siluetas (silhouettes), which form the core of her work. In the 1980s, Mendieta’s body disappeared from her artworks and she started to generate indoor works for galleries. Her engagement with nature continued in her sculptures and drawings, which she created as lasting works.

The exhibition presents roughly 150 works, which are organized throughout twelve spaces; two of these spaces are reconstructions of the original exhibitions by the artist. The works shown are in a multitude of media ranging from photography, film, and sculpture through to drawing. A further section will present the artist’s archive. Slides and photographs, notebooks and postcards offer insight into Mendieta’s working methods. The concern of Stephanie Rosenthal, chief curator of the Hayward Gallery London, is “to show Ana Mendieta’s outstanding work in all of its facets, and to place her artistic process at the center.”

While the artistic media that Mendieta utilizes in her works could not be any more diverse, the pictures that she produces are characterized by an unmistakable, overwhelming and mystical poetry. This exhibition makes clear that almost thirty years after the artist’s premature death, her work has lost none of its singularity and uniqueness.”

Text from the Museum der Moderne Salzburg website

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Silueta Series)' 1978

 

Ana Mendieta
Untitled (Silueta Series)
1978
Gelatin silver print
20.3 x 25.4 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Alma, Silueta en Fuego' (Soul, Silhouette on Fire) (still) 1975

 

Ana Mendieta
Alma, Silueta en Fuego (
Soul, Silhouette on Fire) (still)
1975
Super-8 color, silent film transferred to DVD
3:07 minutes
The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection; Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris, and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Anima, Silueta de Cohetes (Firework Piece)' (still) 1976

 

Ana Mendieta
Anima, Silueta de Cohetes (Firework Piece)
(still)
1976
(Soul, Silhouette of Fireworks)
Super-8 color, silent film transferred to DVD
2:22 minutes
The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection; courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled (Cuilapán Niche)' 1973

 

Ana Mendieta
Untitled (Cuilapán Niche)
1973
Black-and-white photograph (lifetime print)
25.4 x 20.4 cm
Private collection, London; Courtesy Gallery Lelong, New York and Paris, and Alison Jacques Gallery London

 

 

“Ana Mendieta died at just 36 years old, but the imprint of her life digs deeper than most. Mendieta’s work occupies the indeterminate space between land, body and performance art, refusing to be confined to any one genre while working to expand the horizons of them all. With the immediacy of a fresh wound and the weightlessness of a half-remembered song, Mendieta’s artwork remains as haunting and relevant today as ever.

Her haunting imagery explores the relationship between earth and spirit while tackling the eternally plaguing questions of love, death and rebirth. Like an ancient cave drawing, Mendieta’s art gets as close as possible to her subject matter allowing no excess, using primal and visceral means to navigate her themes. Decades after her death, the Museum der Moderne Salzburg will show a retrospective of the late feminist artist’s work, simply titled “Ana Mendieta: Traces.”

Mendieta, who was born in Havana, Cuba in 1948, moved to the U.S. at 12 years old to escape Castro’s regime. There she hopped between refugee camps and foster homes, planting inside her an obsession with ideas of loss, belonging and the impermanence of place. As an artist in the 1970s, Mendieta embarked upon her iconic series “Silhouettes,” in which she merged body and earthly material, making nature both canvas and medium. In her initial “Silhouette,” Mendieta lay shrouded in an ancient Zapotec grave, letting natural forms eat up her diminutive form.

Her “earth-body” sculptures, as they came to be known, feature blood, feathers, flowers and dirt smothered and stuck on Mendieta’s flesh in various combinations. In “Imagen de Yagul,” speckled feverishly in tiny white flowers, she appears as ethereal and disembodied as Ophelia, while in “Untitled Blood and Feathers” Mendieta looks simultaneously the helpless victim and the guilty culprit. “She always had a direction – that feeling that everything is connected,” Ana’s sister Raquelin said of her work.

An uncertain mythology runs throughout Mendieta’s oeuvre, a feeling at once primal, pagan and feminine. Admirers have cited the Afro-Cuban religion of Santeria as an influence, as well as the ancient rituals of Mexico, where Mendieta made much of her work. Yet many of Mendieta’s pieces removed themselves from the spiritual realm to address present day events, for example “Rape Scene,” a 1973 performance based off the rape and murder of a close friend. For the piece Mendieta remained tied to a table for two hours, motionless, her naked body smeared with cow’s blood. In another work, Mendieta smushes her face and body against glass panes, like a child eager to peek into an off-limits locale, or a bug that’s crashed into a windshield. Against the glass, her scrambled facial features almost resemble a Cubist artwork.

Mendieta died tragically young in 1985, falling from her New York City apartment window onto a delicatessen below. She was living with her husband of eight months, minimalist sculptor Carl Andre at the time. Andre was convicted of murder following the horrific incident and later acquitted. Though the art world remains captivated by the mysterious nature of Mendieta’s passing, her sister emphasized the importance of removing Ana’s work from her life story. “I don’t want it to get in the way of the work,” she said. “Her death has really nothing to do with her work. Her work was about life and power and energy and not about death.”

Fellow feminist performance artist Carolee Schneeman disagrees, however, telling The New York Times in 2004: “I see her death as part of some larger denial of the feminine. Like a huge metaphor saying, we don’t want this depth of feminine eroticism, nature, absorption, integration to happen. It’s too organic. It’s too sacral. In a way, her death also has a symbolic trajectory.”

Since many of Mendieta’s artworks were bodily performances, the ephemera that remain are but traces of her original endeavors. For an artist whose career was built on imprints, ghosts and impressions, this seems aptly fitting. Visceral yet distant, bodily yet spiritual, Mendieta’s images speak a language very distant from the insular artistic themes that so often populate gallery and museum walls. Mendieta’s works present the female body turned out, at once vulnerable and all-powerful, frail and supernatural. As her retrospective makes obvious, her artistic traces are still oozing lifeblood.”

Priscilla Frank. “The Haunting Traces Of Ana Mendieta Go On View (NSFW),” on the Huffington Post website February 4, 2014 [Online] Cited 30/06/2014

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled' 1976 "Silueta Series, Mexico"

 

Ana Mendieta
Untitled
1976
“Silueta Series, Mexico”
Color photograph (lifetime print)
39.8 x 31 x 3.2 cm (framed)
Tate: Presented by the American Patrons of Tate, courtesy of the Latin American Acquisitions Committee 2010

 

Mendieta formed a silueta on the beach at La Ventosa, Mexico, filling it with red tempera that was ultimately washed away by the ocean waves. The artist documented the obliteration of the figure by the tide in a sequence of 35 mm slides.

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Tree of Life' 1976

 

Ana Mendieta
Tree of Life
1976
Colour photograph, lifetime print
Collection Raquelín Mendieta Family Trust
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled' 1978 "Silueta Series, Iowa"

 

Ana Mendieta
Untitled
1978
“Silueta Series, Iowa”
Color photograph (lifetime print)
25.4 x 20.3 cm
The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection; courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Itiba Cahubaba (Esculturas Rupestres)' [Old Mother Blood (Rupestrian Sculptures)] 1982

 

Ana Mendieta
Itiba Cahubaba (Esculturas Rupestres) [Old Mother Blood (Rupestrian Sculptures)]
1982
Black-and-white photograph, box mounted, exhibition copy
Collection Ignacio C. Mendieta
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

Ana Mendieta. 'Untitled' 1982

 

Ana Mendieta
Untitled
1982
Graphite on leaf of a copey tree (Clusia major)
E. Righi Collection
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

Ana Mendieta with Untitled wood sculpture, 1984-85

 

Ana Mendieta with Untitled wood sculpture, 1984-85
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

Ana Mendieta. 'El Laberinto de Venus' (Labyrinth of Venus) 1985

 

Ana Mendieta
El Laberinto de Venus (Labyrinth of Venus)
1985
Acrylic on paper
Collection Raquelín Mendieta Family Trust
© The Estate of Ana Mendieta Collection, L.L.C.
Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York and Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London

 

 

Museum der Moderne Mönchsberg
Mönchsberg 32
5020 Salzburg
T: +43.662.84 22 20-403

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday: 10.00 am – 6.00 pm
Wednesday: 10.00 am – 8.00 pm
Monday: closed

Museum der Moderne website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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