Posts Tagged ‘post photography

27
Aug
15

Exhibition: ‘Light, Paper, Process: Revolutionizing Photography’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 14th April – 6th September 2015

 

These days, photography can be anything your imagination, concept and process desires…

Whether that makes for interesting / lasting (ie. memorable) / good, (post)photographic outcomes is up to you to decide.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the J. Paul Getty Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitsky) (American, 1890-1976) 'Untitled (Smoke)' 1928

 

Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitsky) (American, 1890-1976)
Untitled (Smoke)
1928
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24.6 x 19.8 cm (9 11/16 x 7 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Man Ray Trust ARS-ADAG

 

Chargesheimer (Karl Heinz Hargesheimer) (German, 1924-1971) 'Picturesque' 1949

 

Chargesheimer (Karl Heinz Hargesheimer) (German, 1924-1971)
Picturesque
1949
Gelatin silver print
Image: 49.5 x 39.6 cm (19 1/2 x 15 9/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Museum Ludwig, Cologne

 

Henry Holmes Smith (American, 1909-1986) 'Man and Woman' 1976

 

Henry Holmes Smith (American, 1909-1986)
Man and Woman
1976
Dye imbibition print
Image: 33.2 x 26.2 cm (13 1/16 x 10 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of the Smith Family Trust
© J. Paul Getty Trust

 

Edmund Teske (American, 1911-1996) 'Leaves on Glass, Topanga Canyon, California' 1952; print 1960s

 

Edmund Teske (American, 1911-1996)
Leaves on Glass, Topanga Canyon, California
1952; print 1960s
Gelatin silver duotone solarized print
Image: 35.4 x 27.9 cm (13 15/16 x 11 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Edmund Teske Archives/Laurence Bump and Nils Vidstrand, 2001

 

Alison Rossiter (American, born 1953) 'Gevaert Gevarto 47, exact expiration date unknown, about 1960s, processed 2013 (#37)' 2013

 

Alison Rossiter (American, born 1953)
Gevaert Gevarto 47, exact expiration date unknown, about 1960s, processed 2013 (#37)
2013
Four gelatin silver print
Each image: 10.8 x 8.3 cm (4 1/4 x 3 1/4 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
© Alison Rossiter

 

Chris McCaw (American, born 1971) 'Sunburned GSP #202 (San Francisco Bay)' 2008

 

Chris McCaw (American, born 1971)
Sunburned GSP #202 (San Francisco Bay)
2008
Gelatin silver print
Image: 37.5 x 47.6 cm (14 3/4 x 18 3/4 in.)
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Museum Purchase
© Chris McCaw

 

Pierre Cordier (Belgian, born 1933) 'Chemigram II' 1976

 

Pierre Cordier (Belgian, born 1933)
Chemigram II
1976
Gelatin silver print
Image: 23.8 x 17.9 cm (9 3/8 x 7 1/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SABAM, Brussels

 

 

“From its very beginnings in the 19th century, photography has been shaped by the desire of the artist to continually explore and expand its possibilities through experimentation. Taking that spirit of invention and discovery as a point of departure, some artists today have chosen to distill photography to its most essential components of light-sensitivity and the chemical processing of photographic papers, challenging viewers to see the medium anew. Light, Paper, Process: Reinventing Photography, on view at the Getty Center April 14-September 6, 2015, features the work of seven contemporary artists – Alison Rossiter, Marco Breuer, James Welling, Lisa Oppenheim, Chris McCaw, John Chiara, and Matthew Brandt – all of whom have created inventive photographs that reveal aspects of their making (or unmaking).

The artists in the exhibition utilize an extensive array of practices – often achieved through trial and error, accident, or chance – that shift the understanding of photography from a medium that accurately records the world to one that revels in its materiality. Whether they use handmade cameras or none at all, work with expired papers or toxic chemicals, the images remain latent until processed, fixed, or otherwise coaxed from the paper.

“Each of the artists in this exhibition engages in some way with the process by which the photographic medium captures and transmutes light into a two-dimensional image on paper,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “But rather than seeing this process as something to be ‘perfected,’ or even neutralized, they exploit its ability to be manipulated and deconstructed, thus collapsing process and product into a single creative activity. I am particularly pleased that the Getty Museum Photographs Council has provided funds to acquire works by Matthew Brandt, Marco Breuer, John Chiara, and Allison Rossiter for our permanent collection that are included in the exhibition.”

The exhibition begins with an overview of 20th-century practices that were experimental in nature, featuring works by Man Ray, László Moholy-Nagy, Nathan Lerner, Edmund Teske, and others. The renewed interest of artists of this period in techniques such as camera-less photograms, chemigrams, and solarization serves as inspiration for today’s artists. Each of the subsequent galleries in the Getty Museum’s Center for Photographs will be dedicated to the work of one of the seven featured contemporary artists, and follows a progression from abstract, camera-less works to representative images made with custom-built cameras.

“This exhibition is an excellent opportunity to feature the work of living artists alongside earlier photographs from our permanent collection,” says Virginia Heckert, department head of the Getty Museum’s Department of Photographs and curator of the exhibition. “By focusing on work of a more experimental nature, visitors will be reminded that the exploration of materiality and process has been an important aspect of photography since its inception and continues to motivate and inspire artists working with the medium today.”

Alison Rossiter (American, born 1953) takes a minimalist approach to the materials she uses to create her photographic works. She does not use a camera, film, or light, but instead only uses unprocessed sheets of expired gelatin silver paper and photographic chemicals in the darkroom. Through the simple acts of immersing or dipping a sheet of paper in developer or pouring and pooling developer onto the paper’s surface, she achieves a rich array or results. Some suggest faint impressions of primitive mark-making, others resemble landscapes, and still others call to mind abstract painting of the mid-20th-century.

Working since the early 1990s without a camera or film, Marco Breuer (German, born 1966) subjects light-sensitive paper to various acts that abrade, burn, or scrape away the emulsion layer. Completely nonrepresentational, his “photographs” look like no others; they elicit the hues and textures of rare metals, mineral deposits, or oil spills, and display marks ranging from fine incisions and abrasions to scar-like burns and gashes. His deliberate misuse of black-and-white and photographic papers is the starting point for a negotiation between the paper as recording material, the hand, and the tools employed.

James Welling (American, born 1951) spent the first ten years of his career exploring painting, sculpture, performance art, video art, conceptual art, and installation before he committed to thinking of himself as a photographer. For the past four decades, he has explored photography, from documentary to experimental, with and without a camera, using black-and-white, color, and Polaroid films and papers, as well as digital files and printing. Since 1995 he has worked increasingly with color, filters, and camera-less photography. Three bodies of recent work presented in the exhibition include variations on the photogram, chemigram, and printing-out process.

Influenced by her background in structural/materialist filmmaking, Lisa Oppenheim (American, born 1975) is interested in exploring the ways in which a photograph can record both its subject and the process by which it was made. In three bodies of work dating from 2010 to present, she enlists the very entities depicted in the negatives – the sun, the moon, and smoke/fire – in the act of exposing them. Although they sound scientific, the titles of two of these bodies of work, Heliograms and Lunagrams, are made up, combining the name of the camera-less photogram technique and the source of light by which the enlarged negatives have been contact-printed.

Chris McCaw (American, born 1971) establishes an immediate, visceral relationship between his subject, the sun, and his process, which involves loading photographic paper directly into the camera. The photographs in his Sunburn series record the sun’s movement, which literally sears its path into the paper in the form of dots, lines, or arcs, depending on its position, the weather conditions, and the length of the exposure(s). McCaw uses customized cameras outfitted with vintage military lenses pointed directly at the sun to function like a magnifying glass that burns through the emulsion layer and paper base, leaving behind singe marks and solarized passages.

John Chiara’s (American, born 1971) large-scale color prints convey a hands-on – rather than pristine, mechanized – aesthetic. For the past decade his subjects have been both uninhabited landscapes and the built environment. He works with large custom-built cameras that he loads with color photographic paper that he then processes himself by pouring chemicals into a six-foot-long section of PVC sewer pipe, sealing the tube, and then rolling it back and forth on the floor. Irregular streaks and drips characterize his prints, as do areas of overexposure and underexposure, flare from light leaks, and unevenly saturated colors.

Matthew Brandt (American, born 1982) has created diverse bodies of work, some of which are realized with photographic means and others that are more tangentially related to photographic images, techniques, or ideas. He may begin with a photograph that he has made with a 4 x 5-inch view camera, a digital camera, or his iPhone, one that he has sourced from archives in public libraries, or one that he has clicked and dragged from Ebay. His fascination with early photographic processes has led him to experiment with salted paper prints, gum bichromate prints, and heliographs, examples of which will be on view. Brandt’s interest in both photographic/visual and the physical/material forms of representation has led him to bring the two together, incorporating physical elements from his subjects into his photographic representations of them.

Light, Paper, Process: Reinventing Photography, is on view April 14-September 6, 2015 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center. The exhibition is curated by Virginia Heckert, department head of the Museum’s Department of Photographs. A related publication of the same title will be produced by Getty Publications.”

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

 

Alison Rossiter (American, born 1953) 'Haloid Platina, exact expiration date unknown, about 1915, processed 2010' 2010

 

Alison Rossiter (American, born 1953)
Haloid Platina, exact expiration date unknown, about 1915, processed 2010
2010
Gelatin silver print
Image (each): 21.6 x 16.5 cm (8 1/2 x 6 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Alison Rossiter

 

Alison Rossiter (American, born 1953) 'Fuji gaslight, exact expiration date unknown, about 1920s, processed 2010' 2010

 

Alison Rossiter (American, born 1953)
Fuji gaslight, exact expiration date unknown, about 1920s, processed 2010
2010
Gelatin silver print
Image: 30.5 x 25.4 cm (12 x 10 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Alison Rossiter

 

Alison Rossiter (American, born 1953) 'Kilbourn Acme Kruxo, exact expiration date unknown, about 1940s, processed 2013' 2013

 

Alison Rossiter (American, born 1953)
Kilbourn Acme Kruxo, exact expiration date unknown, about 1940s, processed 2013
2013
Gelatin silver print
Image: 12.7 x 17.8 cm (5 x 7 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Alison Rossiter

 

Marco Breuer (German, born 1966) 'Untitled (Heat/Gun)' 2001

 

Marco Breuer (German, born 1966)
Untitled (Heat/Gun)
2001
Gelatin silver paper, burned
Image: 27.9 x 21.6 cm (11 x 8 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Marco Breuer

 

Marco Breuer (German, born 1966) 'Untitled (C-62)' 2002

 

Marco Breuer (German, born 1966)
Untitled (C-62)
2002
Chromogenic paper, exposed and abraded
Image: 35.6 x 27.9 cm (14 x 11 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
© Marco Breuer

 

Marco Breuer (German, born 1966) 'Spin (C-824)' 2008

 

Marco Breuer (German, born 1966)
Spin (C-824)
2008
Chromogenic paper, embossed and scratched
Image: 34.6 x 27 cm (13 5/8 x 10 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Marco Breuer

 

James Welling (American, born 1951) 'Water' 2009

 

James Welling (American, born 1951)
Water
2009
Chromogenic print
Image: 60.3 x 50.2 cm (23 3/4 x 19 3/4 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles
© James Welling

 

James Welling (American, born 1951) 'Water' 2009

 

James Welling (American, born 1951)
Water
2009
Chromogenic print
Image: 58.7 x 49.5 cm (23 1/8 x 19 1/2 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Regen Projects, Los Angeles
© James Welling

 

James Welling (American, born 1951) 'Chemical' 2013

 

James Welling (American, born 1951)
Chemical
2013
Chemigram on chromogenic paper
Image: 35.6 x 27.9 cm (14 x 11 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and David Zwirner, New York/London
© James Welling

 

Lisa Oppenheim (American, born 1975) 'Heliograms July 8, 1876 / October 16, 2011' 2011

 

Lisa Oppenheim (American, born 1975)
Heliograms July 8, 1876 / October 16, 2011
2011
Gelatin silver print exposed with sunlight, toned
Image: 30 x 27.9 cm (11 13/16 x 11 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Lisa Oppenheim

 

Lisa Oppenheim (American, born 1975) 'A Handley Page Halifax of No. 4 Group flies over the suburbs of Caen, France, during a major daylight raid to assist the Normandy land battle. 467 aircraft took part in the attack, which was originally intended to have bombed German strongpoints north of' 2012

 

Lisa Oppenheim (American, born 1975)
A Handley Page Halifax of No. 4 Group flies over the suburbs of Caen, France, during a major daylight raid to assist the Normandy land battle. 467 aircraft took part in the attack, which was originally intended to have bombed German strongpoints north of
2012
Gelatin silver print
Framed (approx.): 71.1 x 86.4 cm (28 x 34 in.)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Fund for the Twenty-First Century
Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art / Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY
© Lisa Oppenheim

 

Chris McCaw (American, born 1971) 'Sunburned GSP #609 (San Francisco Bay)' 2012

 

Chris McCaw (American, born 1971)
Sunburned GSP #609 (San Francisco Bay)
2012
Gelatin silver paper negatives
Each image: 76.1 x 101.6 cm (30 x 40 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Chris McCaw (American, born 1971) 'Sunburned GSP #555 (San Francisco Bay)' 2012

 

Chris McCaw (American, born 1971)
Sunburned GSP #555 (San Francisco Bay)
2012
Gelatin silver paper negative
Image: 20.3 x 25.4 cm (8 x 10 in.)
Courtesy of Stephen Wirtz Gallery San Francisco
© Chris McCaw

 

Chris McCaw (American, born 1971) 'Poly-optic #10' 2012

 

Chris McCaw (American, born 1971)
Poly-optic #10
2012
Gelatin silver paper negative
Image: 20.3 x 25.4 cm (8 x 10 in.)
Collection of Leslie, Judith and Gabrielle Schreyer, Courtesy of Stephen Wirtz Gallery
© Chris McCaw

 

John Chiara (American, born 1971) 'Longview at Panorama' 2007

 

John Chiara (American, born 1971)
Longview at Panorama
2007
Dye destruction photograph on Ilfochrome paper
Image: 50.8 x 40.6 cm (20 x 16 in.)
Rose Gallery and Von Lintel Gallery
© John Chiara

 

John Chiara (American, born 1971) 'Grandview at Elysian' 2012

 

John Chiara (American, born 1971)
Grandview at Elysian
2012
Dye destruction photographs on Ilfochrome paper
Each image: 85.1 x 71.1 cm (33 1/2 x 28 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Trish and Jan de Bont
© John Chiara

 

John Chiara (American, born 1971) 'Starr King: 30th: Coral' 2013

 

John Chiara (American, born 1971)
Starr King: 30th: Coral
2013
Dye destruction photograph on Ilfochrome paper
Image: 83.8 x 71.1 cm (33 x 28 in.)
Kerstin Morehead
© John Chiara

 

John Chiara (American, born 1971) 'Sierra at Edison' 2012

 

John Chiara (American, born 1971)
Sierra at Edison
2012
Chromogenic photograph on Kodak Professional Endura Metallic paper
Image: 127 x 182.9 cm (50 x 72 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© John Chiara

 

Matthew Brandt (American, born 1982) '00036082-3 "Mathers Department Store, Pasadena, 1971"' 2013

 

Matthew Brandt (American, born 1982)
00036082-3 “Mathers Department Store, Pasadena, 1971”
2013
Gum bichromate print with dust from AT&T parking structure level 2
Image: 110.5 x 143.5 cm (43 1/2 x 56 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of the artist and M+B
© Matthew Brandt, Source image courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection

 

Matthew Brandt (American, born 1982) 'Rainbow Lake, WY A4' Negative 2012; print 2013

 

Matthew Brandt (American, born 1982)
Rainbow Lake, WY A4
Negative 2012; print 2013
Chromogenic print, soaked in Rainbow Lake water
Image: 76.2 x 101.6 cm (30 x 40 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Matthew Brandt

 

Matthew Brandt (American, born 1982) 'Rainbow Lake, WY A20' Negative 2012; print 2013

 

Matthew Brandt (American, born 1982)
Rainbow Lake, WY A20
Negative 2012; print 2013
Chromogenic print, soaked in Rainbow Lake water
Image: 76.2 x 101.6 cm (30 x 40 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Matthew Brandt

 

 

The J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

Opening hours:
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Saturday 10 am – 9 pm
Sunday 10 am – 9 pm
Monday closed

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01
May
14

Exhibition: ‘What Is a Photograph?’ at the International Center of Photography, New York

Exhibition dates: 31st January – 4th May 2014

Artist in the exhibition include:

Matthew Brandt b. 1982, Los Angeles; lives and works in Los Angeles. Marco Breuer b. 1966, Landshut, Germany; lives and works in New York State. Liz Deschenes b. 1966, Boston; lives and works in New York City. Adam Fuss b. 1961, London; lives and works in New York City. Owen Kydd b. 1975, Calgary, Canada; lives and works in Los Angeles. Floris Neusüss b. 1937, Lennep, Germany; lives and works in Kassel, Germany. Marlo Pascual b. 1972, Nashville; lives and works in Brooklyn. Sigmar Polke 1941–2010; Germany. Eileen Quinlan b. 1972, Boston; lives and works in New York City. Jon Rafman b. 1981, Montreal; lives and works in Montreal. Gerhard Richter b. 1932, Dresden; lives and works in Cologne. Mariah Robertson b. 1975, Indianapolis, Indiana; lives and works in Brooklyn. Alison Rossiter b. 1953, Jackson, Mississippi; lives and works in the metro New York area. Lucas Samaras b. 1936, Macedonia, Greece; lives and works in New York City. David Benjamin Sherry b. 1981, Woodstock, New York; lives and works in Los Angeles. Travess Smalley b. 1986, Huntington, West Virginia; lives and works in New York City. Kate Steciw b. 1978, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; lives and works in Brooklyn. Artie Vierkant b. 1986, Breinerd, Minnesota; lives and works in New York City. James Welling b. 1951, Hartford, Connecticut; lives and works in Los Angeles. Christopher Williams b. 1956, Los Angeles; lives and works in Cologne, Düsseldorf, and Amsterdam. Letha Wilson b. 1976, Honolulu; lives and works in Brooklyn.

 

 

A Vocabulary of Photography: representation and the original, the ‘I can’ of sight

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What is a photograph? These days, it can be anything your imagination desires, any imag(in)ing that takes your fancy…

The images in this posting are a case in point. In a postmodern, post-photographic world where there is (allegedly) no centre and periphery, these art works are photography playing at the edges of photography. They examine “the range of creative experimentation that has occurred in photography since the 1970s,” reconsidering and reinventing, “the role of light, color, composition, materiality, and the subject in the art of photography.”

In an earlier posting I talked about A Vocabulary of Printing and the Syntax of the Image. Here we could equally posit a Vocabulary of Photography, a compendium of techniques and imaginings, noting that technology and imagination should never delimit the creativity of the photographer/artist. In other words visions, boundaries and technologies are there to be pushed!

All well and good. To solidify meaning in such a nebulous world, there is penchant for (ambiguous) numbers – titles such as 6236; Untitled (C-1189); 154 – or definitive titles that try to fix ambiguity in a specific time, place or typology (a classification according to general type) eg Image Object Friday 7 June 2013 4:33 PM, 2013 or Supplement ’13 (Mixed Typologies) #3.

However, what is produced by this experimentation, this voluminous vocabulary, seldom leads to satisfying results. When you actually look at this type of work, really look at it with a clear and aware mind (as Krishnamurti would say), a large proportion of it is blather, noise for the sake of making noise, tinkering for a terrestrial world saturated in meaningless images. No wonder I get disillusioned with the “contemporary” in photography. The art work seems to mean very little and takes me nowhere I particularly want to go.

While photographs are no longer necessarily “points of view” analogous to Littré’s rigorous definition: ‘The point of view is a collection of objects to which the eye is directed and on which it rests within a certain distance’,1 and “the image has nothing to do with signification, meaning, as implied by the existence of the world, the effort of truth, the law and the brightness of the day”2 – meaning that there is no single truth, there are only competing narratives and interpretations of a world that cannot be wholly, accurately described3 – for me there still needs to be a re(as)semblance towards some form of inherent truth in the image, ideally some form of human happiness.

The ‘I can’ of site (representation) /sight (vision) …

Marcus

 

1. Virilio, Paul. The Vision Machine (trans. Julie Rose). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994, p. 19
2. Blanchot, Maurice. The Gaze of Orpheus. New York: Barrytown, 1981, p. 85
3. Townsend, Chris. Vile Bodies: Photography and the Crisis of Looking. Munich: Prestel, 1998, p. 10

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Many thankx to the International Center of Photography for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

“Vision is ordered according to a mode that may be generally called the function of images. This function is defined by a point-by-point correspondence of two unities in space. Whatever optical intermediaries may be used to establish their relation, whether their image is virtual, or real, the point-by-point correspondence is essential. That which is the mode of the image is therefore reducible to the simple schema that enables us to establish anamorphosis, that is to say, to the relation of an image, in so far as it linked to a surface, with a certain point that we shall call the ‘geometrical’ point. Anything that is determined by this method, in which the straight line plays its role of being the path of light, can be called an image.”
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Lacan, Jacques. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis (trans. Alan Sheridan). London: The Hogarth Press, 1977, p. 86

 

“With the industrial proliferation of visual and audiovisual protheses and unrestrained use of instantaneous-transmission equipment from earliest childhood onwards, we now routinely see the encoding of increasingly elaborate mental images together with a steady decline in retention rates and recall. In other words we are looking at the rapid collapse of mnemonic [aiding memory] consolidation.

This collapse seems only natural, if one remembers a contrario that seeing, and its spatio-temporal organisation, precede gesture and speech and their co-ordination in knowing, recognising, making known (as images of our thoughts), our thoughts themselves and cognitive functions, which are never passive… (Romains, Jules. La Vision extra-rétinienne et le sens paroptique. Paris: Gallimard, 1964).

Everything I see is in principle within my reach, at least within reach of my sight, marked on the map of the ‘I can’. In this important formulation, Merleau-Ponty pinpoints precisely what will eventually find itself ruined by the banalisation of a certain teletopology. The bulk of what I see is, in fact and in principle, no longer with in my reach. And even if it lies within reach of my sight, it is no longer necessarily inscribed on the map of the ‘I can’. The logistics of perception in fact destroy what earlier modes of representation preserved of the original, ideally human happiness, the ‘I can’ of sight… ”

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Virilio, Paul. The Vision Machine (trans. Julie Rose). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994, p. 7 (my bold)

 

 

Matthew Brandt. 'Grays Lake, ID 7' 2013

 

Matthew Brandt
Grays Lake, ID 7
2013
© Matthew Brandt, courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

 

James Welling. '6236' 2008

 

James Welling
6236
2008
© James Welling, courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London

 

Alison Rossiter. 'Kilborn Acme Kruxo, exact expiration date unknown, ca. 1940s, processed in 2013 (#1)' 2013

 

Alison Rossiter
Kilborn Acme Kruxo, exact expiration date unknown, ca. 1940s, processed in 2013 (#1)
2013
© Alison Rossiter, courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

 

Eileen Quinlan. 'The Drink' 2011

 

Eileen Quinlan
The Drink
2011
© Eileen Quinlan, courtesy Miguel Abreu Gallery, New York

 

Gerhard Richter. '18.2.08' 2008

 

Gerhard Richter
18.2.08
2008
© Gerhard Richter, courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery, New York

 

Kate Steciw. 'Armchair, Background, Basic, Beauty, Bed, Bedside, Bread, Breakfast, Bright, Cereal, Closeup, Cloth, Color, Contemporary, Couch, Crust, Day, Decor, Fox, Frame, Grain, Ingredient, Interior, Invitation, Irregular, Juice, Life, Living, Loaf, Luxury, Macro, Sofa, Speed, Style, Sweet, Texture' 2013

 

Kate Steciw
Armchair, Background, Basic, Beauty, Bed, Bedside, Bread, Breakfast, Bright, Cereal, Closeup, Cloth, Color, Contemporary, Couch, Crust, Day, Decor, Fox, Frame, Grain, Ingredient, Interior, Invitation, Irregular, Juice, Life, Living, Loaf, Luxury, Macro, Sofa, Speed, Style, Sweet, Texture
2013
1 and 2 of infinite
© Kate Steciw

 

 

“On view at the International Center of Photography from January 31 through May 4, 2014, What Is a Photograph? explores the range of creative experimentation that has occurred in photography since the 1970s.

This major exhibition brings together 21 emerging and established artists who have reconsidered and reinvented the role of light, color, composition, materiality, and the subject in the art of photography. In the process, they have also confronted an unexpected revolution in the medium with the rise of digital technology, which has resulted in imaginative reexaminations of the art of analog photography, the new world of digital images, and the hybrid creations of both systems as they come together.

“Artists around the globe have been experimenting with and redrawing the boundaries of traditional photography for decades,” said ICP Curator Carol Squiers, who organized the exhibit. “Although digital photography seems to have made analog obsolete, artists continue to make works that are photographic objects, using both old technologies and new, crisscrossing boundaries and blending techniques.”

Among those included in the exhibition is Lucas Samaras, who adopted the newly developed Polaroid camera in the late 1960s and early 1970s and immediately began altering its instant prints, creating fantastical nude self-portraits. Another artist who turned to photography in the 1970s was Sigmar Polke. Although better known as a painter, Polke explored nontraditional ways of photographing and printing, manipulating both his film and prints in the darkroom and often drawing and painting on his images.

More recently, Liz Deschenes has used camera-less photography in a subtle investigation of nonrepresentational forms of expression and the outmoded technologies of photography. And, James Welling has created a heterogeneous body of work that explores optics, human perception, and a range of photographic genres both abstract and representational.”

Press release from the International Center of Photography website

 

Letha Wilson. 'Colorado Purple' 2012

 

Letha Wilson
Colorado Purple
2012
Concrete, chromogenic print transfer, and wood frame
Courtesy the artist and Higher Pictures, New York
© Letha Wilson, courtesy Higher Pictures, New York

 

Adam Fuss. 'Untitled' 1988

 

Adam Fuss
Untitled
1988
© Adam Fuss, courtesy Cheim & Read, New York

 

Marco Breuer. 'Untitled (C-1189)' 2012

 

Marco Breuer
Untitled (C-1189)
2012
© Marco Breuer, courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

 

David Benjamin Sherry. 'Lower Yosemite Falls, Yosemite, California' 2013

 

David Benjamin Sherry
Lower Yosemite Falls, Yosemite, California
2013
© David Benjamin Sherry, courtesy the artist and Salon 94, New York

 

Mariah Robertson. '154' [detail] 2010

 

Mariah Robertson
154 [detail]
2010
© Mariah Robertson, courtesy American Contemporary, New York

 

Artie Vierkant. 'Image Object Friday 7 June 2013 4:33 PM, 2013' 2013

 

Artie Vierkant
Image Object Friday 7 June 2013 4:33 PM, 2013
2013
© Artie Vierkant, courtesy Higher Pictures, New York

 

Christopher Williams. 'Supplement '13 (Mixed Typologies) #3' [detail] 2013

 

Christopher Williams
Supplement ’13 (Mixed Typologies) #3 [detail]
2013
© Christopher Williams, courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London and Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne

 

Jon Rafman. 'New Age Demanded (The heart was a place made fast)' 2013

 

Jon Rafman
New Age Demanded (The heart was a place made fast)
2013
© Jon Rafman, courtesy the artist and Zach Feuer Galery, New York

 

Floris Neusüss. 'Tango' 1983

 

Floris Neusüss
Tango
1983
© Floris Neusüss, courtesy the artist and Von Lintel Gallery, New York

 

Marlo Pascual. 'Untitled' 2010

 

Marlo Pascual
Untitled
2010
© Marlo Pascual, courtesy the artist and Casey Kaplan, New York
Photo: Jean Vong

 

Owen Kydd. 'Pico Boulevard (Nocturne)' 2012

 

Owen Kydd
Pico Boulevard (Nocturne)
2012
Courtesy the artist and Nicelle Beauchene Gallery
© Owen Kydd

 

 

International Center of Photography
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Closed: Mondays

International Center of Photography website

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15
Jan
13

Exhibition: ‘Wolfgang Tillmans’ at Moderna Museet Stockholm

Exhibition dates: 6th October 2012 – 20th January 2013

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In this bumper posting, a big call: in my opinion, the greatest photography based image maker in the world today.

Tillmans challenges the way we think and feel about photography. As Tom Holert in his excellent catalogue essay The Unforeseen notes, Tillmans problematises and reconfigures narration and visualisation, experimenting with a sensory experiential backdrop against and within which the photographs are produced. Modes of perception and the regimes of emotion are inducted into the aesthetics of production and meaning so that, “the pictures communicate with each other in a way that is not bound to the pattern of a closed narrative or any particular line of argument. Instead they create a form of aesthetic and thematic interaction that Tillmans sees as ‘a language of personal associations and “thought-maps.”‘ The mobilisation and reversal of value and meaning are central strategies in Tillmans’ praxis.

In this way Tillmans opens up spaces for research, “in which learning and unlearning, resonance and interference, a new affective solidarity and real experimentation might be possible before the onset of all sorts of methods, all forms of governance, all kinds of discipline and doxa [common belief or popular opinion].

This form of experimentation does not lead to benchmark research results; nothing is ever proved or illustrated, regardless of what is in the images or what they may purport to show. Ever engaging in experiment Tillmans roams through the reality of materials, forms, affects and gives us tangible access to these unportrayble, unreferential realities. Tillmans engages his emotions when he is working, also and specifically when he is photographing people, or plants, machines and cities. Individual emotions separate off from the representation of living beings and objects and form nodes of emotion in the viewer’s mind.”

Through these rhizomic tendencies (a la Delueze and Guittari A Thousand Plateaus) Tillmans images generate emotion and affect, “rhythmically resonating between pictures, from wall to wall, from room to room, from side to side,” so that in each instance, in each publication or exhibition, he can “modify and modulate anew the relations between picture and picture support, representation and presentation, motif and materiality.”

Nothing is ever fixed in linear time. The work is presented as an infinitely variable, spatial and emotional relationship – an orthogonal performativity where the ritual of production and meaning is never fully predetermined at any stage of production and reception.

Read Tom Holert’s excellent catalogue essay The Unforeseen. On the Production of the New, and Other Movements in the Work of Wolfgang Tillmans which includes information on Jacques Rancière’s concept of “‘aisthesis’ for the way in which very different things have been registered as ‘art’ for the last two hundred years or so. As he points out, “this is not about the ‘reception’ of works of art, but about the sensory experiential backdrop against and within which they come about. These are completely material conditions – places of performance or exhibition, forms of circulation and reproduction – but also modes of perception and the regimes of emotion, the categories that identify them and the patterns of thought that classify and interpret them.'” A thought provoking text (extracts below to accompany the photographs).

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Moderna Museet for allowing me to publish the photographs and the text in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Installation photographs of various rooms of the exhibition Wolfgang Tillmans at Moderna Museet Stockholm, including Venus transit (2004) and Man pissing on chair (1997). Photographs © Carmen Brunner

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Wolfgang Tillmans. 'Arkadia_I' 1996

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Wolfgang Tillmans
Arkadia_I
1996
© Wolfgang Tillmans. Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Cologne/Berlin

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Wolfgang Tillmans. 'New Family' 2001

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Wolfgang Tillmans
New Family
2001
© Wolfgang Tillmans. Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Cologne/Berlin

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Wolfgang Tillmans. 'Paper drop (window)' 2006

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Wolfgang Tillmans
Paper drop (window)
2006
© Wolfgang Tillmans. Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Cologne/Berlin

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“Wolfgang Tillmans is one of the leading artists of his generation and is constantly in the public eye, with exhibitions all over the world. The exhibition at Moderna Museet is Tillmans’ first major show in Sweden and brings nearly twenty years of picture-making to a new audience. Moderna Museet is delighted to welcome Wolfgang Tillmans – an artist who has extended the boundaries of photography and redefined the medium of photography as an artform.

Wolfgang Tillmans (b. 1968) first attracted attention at the beginning of the 1990s, with his apparently mundane pictures of subjects taken from his own surroundings. After studying in Britain, he published photographs in prominent publications such as i-D, Spex and Interview. Today, these pictures are considered trendsetting for the young generation of the 1990s, and raise questions about subcultures and sexual identities. By turning everyday situations into almost monumental images, Tillmans very strikingly captured the spirit of the times. It soon became evident that his pictures renegotiate photographic conventions and reflect contemporary currents related to culture and identity. Since then, Tillmans has continued his in-depth investigations, expanding the the realm of photography and redefining the very medium as an artform.

“Wolfgang Tillmans moves freely between images of the club scene in Berlin, political manifestations, and skyscrapers in Hong Kong; all with the same direct tonality. At the same time, all of his pictures explore photography itself – as a medium, but also as a material, convention and process,” says Curator Jo Widoff.

Recently Tillmans’ art has taken a number of different directions, revolving around various issues, everything from still lifes and modern landscapes to his lifelong interest in astronomy and the night sky. He has also taken his in-depth exploration of abstract photography even further. Tillmans’ abstract images are more closley related to the painterly tradition and he researches photography as a self-reflexive medium. Abstract images, such as Freischwimmer and Silver, are made in the darkroom, striking a balance between the deliberate and chance. Since 1995, Tillmans has been working actively and strategically with the exhibition space, so as to reveal the possibilities and limitations of the space in interplay with the photographs. His installations display a bewildering variety of formats and sizes, ways of composing the hanging of the pictures, and contexts. The exhibition at Moderna Museet should thus be seen as a site-specific installation. In recent years, Tillmans has been travelling the world taking photographs with the general title Neue Welt. These pictures relate to the new world of markets and trade, to politics and economics, and to the hypermodern. The title also refers to the new digital camera that Wolfgang used to take these pictures, which captures and documents more detail than we can perceive with the naked eye.

“Wolfgang Tillmans is one of today’s most prominent artists. Despite its visual complexity, his pictorial language is immediately recognizable. He captures the explosive energy in social situations and crosses boundaries between different artforms. He is able to use photographic means to create a kind of abstract painting,” says Museum Director Daniel Birnbaum.”

Press release from the Moderna Museet website

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Wolfgang Tillmans. 'Lux' 2009

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Wolfgang Tillmans
Lux
2009
© Wolfgang Tillmans. Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Cologne/Berlin

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Wolfgang Tillmans, 'Iguazu' 2010

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Wolfgang Tillmans
Iguazu
2010
© Wolfgang Tillmans. Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Cologne/Berlin

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Wolfgang Tillmans. 'Paper drop (Roma)' 2007

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Wolfgang Tillmans
Paper drop (Roma)
2007
C-type print
30.5 x 40.6 cm
Courtesy the artist and Maureen Paley, London

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Wolfgang Tillmans. 'Freischwimmer 93' 2004

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Wolfgang Tillmans
Freischwimmer 93
2004
© Wolfgang Tillmans. Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Cologne/Berlin

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“The Freischwimmer series – Free Swimmer is the most basic Lifesaving level in Germany and Switzerland – is an excellent example of Tillmans’s more experimental works. On one hand, the huge photographic papers were affixed to the wall with simple adhesive tape or paper clips; on the other, the images eluded all description and eschewed portraiture, landscape, still life or other subject matters he had centred on up to then.

The creative process of Freischwimmer, ongoing to the present, seems to speak to pure photography, divested of any form of intervention either in shooting or in enlargement, or indeed optical devices of any kind. We can almost imagine the artist in front of a large tray with reagents, performing some kind of alchemical ritual at the origin of these vaporous images, images containing a refinement that exceeds any human intention, just pure representations of themselves, of a unique and absolutely unrepeatable process. Of their reality.”

José Manuel Costa. Swimming to Freedom 38 on the The CA2M Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo website

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“The Freischwimmer, which Tillmans started to produce in the early 2000s, form a group or family of images that are not made using a camera lens. As the results of gestural and chemical operations in the dark room, these originals on medium-sized photo paper, which are subsequently scanned and enlarged both as ink-jet prints and as light-jet prints on photo paper, are unrepeatable one-offs. It has been said that these images, which include ensembles such as Peaches, Blushes and Urgency, call to mind microscopically detailed images of biolog­ical processes, hirsute epidermises, highly erogenous zones, and that their aura fills the whole space – above all when they are presented in such large formats as in Warsaw or yet larger still, as in the case of the two monumental Ostgut Freischwimmer (2004) that used to grace the walls of the Panorama Bar at Berghain in Berlin. The Freischwimmer and their kin can be read as diagrams of sexualised atmospheres in private or semi-public spaces, in boudoirs or clubs, as highly non-representational images that both suspend and supplement conventional depic­tions of sex.”

Extract from Tom Holert. The Unforeseen. On the Production of the New, and Other Movements in the Work of Wolfgang Tillmans. Online catalogue

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Wolfgang Tillmans. 'Nanbei Hu' 2009

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Wolfgang Tillmans
Nanbei Hu
2009
Inkjet print
207 x 138 cm
Courtesy the artist and Maureen Paley, London

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Wolfgang Tillmans. 'Anders pulling splinter from his foot' 2004

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Wolfgang Tillmans
Anders pulling splinter from his foot
2004
© Wolfgang Tillmans. Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Cologne/Berlin

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Wolfgang Tillmans. 'Onion' 2010

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Wolfgang Tillmans
Onion
2010
© Wolfgang Tillmans. Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Cologne/Berlin

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Wolfgang Tillmans. 'Venus transit' 2004

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Wolfgang Tillmans
Venus transit
2004
© Wolfgang Tillmans. Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Cologne/Berlin

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Extracts from Tom Holert. The Unforeseen. On the Production of the New, and Other Movements in the Work of Wolfgang Tillmans. Online catalogue
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Parallelism – Subjectivism – Objectivism

This all means that the decorative unity of wall and image, which the hanging of the Freischwimmer initially promises, is not only thwarted by the shift in dimensions, the infringement of symmetrical order and the (supposed) discontinuity of abstraction and figuration, and by the fact that the different types of image and their configuration on this wall require the viewer to move around in the space and to continually readjust his or her gaze, bearing in mind that in the corner of one’s eye or following a slight turn of the body more pictures are constantly looming into view, mostly unframed, very small (postcard-sized), very large, hung very low down, but also very high up, portraits and still lifes, gestural abstractions, a close-up of a vagina, a picture of a modern Boy with Thorn, street scenes, an air-conditioning system. It also means that the pictures communicate with each other in a way that is not bound to the pattern of a closed narrative or any particular line of argument. Instead they create a form of aesthetic and thematic interaction that Tillmans sees as ‘a language of personal associations and “thought-maps”‘,1 as ‘. . . a pattern of parallelism as opposed to one linear stream of thought’,2 and which the critic Jan Verwoert has aptly described as a ‘performative experiment’ with the viewer.3

With all their variability and flexibility – underpinned by an invisible rectilinear grid yet fundamentally open in their interconnections – these installations serve Tillmans as reflections of his own way of perceiving the world, as externalizations of his thinking and feeling, and as a chance to fashion a utopian world according to his own ideas and fantasies.4 However, this Romantic subjectivism of self-expression or externalization has to be seen in light of a radical objectivism (Tillmans attaches great importance to this) that specifically draws attention not only to the expressive potential arising from the ageing process, from evidence of wear and other precariousnesses in the materials of photography (paper, camera techniques, chemicals, developing equipment etc.) but also to the remarkable resistance and persistence of these same materials.

Amongst the phenomena that inform this objectivism there are those instances of loss of control that can arise during the mechanical production processes of analogue photography or from coding errors, glitches, in digital images. Temporality, finity, brevity come into play here – a certain melancholy that activates rather than paralyses.

Over the years Tillmans has constantly found new ways to explore, to interpret and to stage this dialectic of intention and contingency. His repertoire and means of aesthetic production have multiplied. And this expansion has not been without consequences for the presentation of his work. Tillmans himself feels that the character of his installations has changed since 2006/07, in other words, when different versions of a solo exhibition of his work toured to three museums in the United States. It was during this exhibition tour that Tillmans started to see the benefit of placing greater weight on individual groups of works in the various rooms of larger exhibitions. In so doing he gave visitors the chance to engage in a different kind of concentration, without the pressure of constantly having to deal with the ‘full spectrum’ (Tillmans) of his oeuvre.5

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Wolfgang Tillmans. 'Heptathlon' 2009

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Wolfgang Tillmans
Heptathlon
2009
Inkjet print
208.5 x 138 cm
Courtesy the artist and Maureen Paley, London

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Wolfgang Tillmans. 'Headlight (a)' 2012

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Wolfgang Tillmans
Headlight (a)
2012
© Wolfgang Tillmans. Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Cologne/Berlin

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Wolfgang Tillmans. 'Ushuaia Lupine (a)' 2010

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Wolfgang Tillmans
Ushuaia Lupine (a)
2010
© Wolfgang Tillmans. Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Cologne/Berlin

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Value Theory, Value Praxis

… The visitor to an exhibition of the work of Wolfgang Tillmans in the year 2012, in this case the author of these lines, arrives in expectation of a particular, clearly defined type of art and image experience. A sense (however fragmentary) of the artist’s past exhibitions and publications is always present in any encounter with his work. And this includes the need to see the ‘abstract pictures’ in the context of an oeuvre where realistic and abstract elements have never intentionally been separated from each other. On the contrary, abstraction is always co-present with figurative and representational elements. There is no contradiction between forms and matter free of meaning – that is to say, visual moments that on the face of it neither represent nor illustrate anything – and Tillmans’ photographs of people, animals, objects and landscapes; in fact there is an unbroken connection, a continuum. This applies both to individual images as much as to the internal, dynamic relationalism of his oeuvre as a whole. And it also applies to each individual, concrete manifestation of multiplicity, as in the case of the installation in the first room of the exhibition in Warsaw.

Both aesthetic theory and the institution of art itself provide decisive grounds for discussing photography and visual art in such a way that images are not solely considered in terms of documentary functions or ornamental aspects nor are they reduced to the question as to whether their contents are stage-managed or authentic, but that attention is paid instead to the material nature of the pictures and objects in the space, to their sculptural qualities. Having decided early on against a career as a commercial photographer and in favour of a life in art, there was no need for Tillmans to seek to justify the interest he had already felt in his youth in a non-hierarchical, queer approach to various forms and genres in the visual arts. For the young Wolfgang Tillmans the cover artwork for a New Order LP, a portrait of Barbara Klemm (in-house photographer at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung), or a screenprint collage of Robert Rauschenberg in Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen were all ‘equally important’ images’.7 The mobilisation and reversal of value and meaning are central strategies in his praxis. He questions the ‘language of importance’8 in photography and alters valencies of the visual by, for instance – in a ‘transformation of value’9 – producing C-prints from the supposedly impoverished or inadequate visuality of old black-and-white copies or wrongly developed images and thus raising them to the status of museum art. However much he may set store by refinement and precision, he avoids conventional forms of presentation, that is to say, ‘the signifiers that give immediate value to something, such as the picture frame’.10

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Wolfgang Tillmans. 'Tukan' 2010

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Wolfgang Tillmans
Tukan
2010
Inkjet print on paper, clips

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Wolfgang Tillmans. 'Photocopy' 1994

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Wolfgang Tillmans
Photocopy
1994
© Wolfgang Tillmans, Courtesy Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Köln

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Conditions: Subject – Work – Mediation

If we take the line proposed by the philosopher Jacques Rancière, then the ‘aesthetic regime’ of the modern era, which – following the introduction of a modern concept of art and aesthetics – abandoned the regulatory aesthetic canon of the classical age in the nineteenth century, is distinguished by the fact that under its auspices the traditional hierarchies separating the high from the popular branches of narration and visualisation were problematised and reconfigured in such a way that a new politics of aesthetics and a ‘distribution of the sensible’ in the name of art ensued. Rancière has recently proposed the term ‘aisthesis’ for the way in which very different things have been registered as ‘art’ for the last two hundred years or so. As he points out, this is not about the ‘reception’ of works of art, but about the sensory experiential backdrop against and within which they come about. ‘These are completely material conditions – places of performance or exhibition, forms of circulation and reproduction – but also modes of perception and the regimes of emotion, the categories that identify them and the patterns of thought that classify and interpret them.’12

In order to understand why the work of Wolfgang Tillmans – so seemingly casual, so heterogeneous and so wide-ranging – is not only extremely successful, but has, for over twenty years, been intelligible and influential both within and outside the field of art, with the result that by now his praxis seems like a universal, subtly normative style of perception and image-making, it is essential to consider the ‘conditions’ alluded to by Rancière. For these are fundamental to the specific visibility and speakability of this oeuvre and to its legitimacy as art…

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The Production of the New

Tillmans thus also makes his contribution to an answer to the question posed by the philosopher John Rajchman (in response to Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault and their deliberations on the production of the new and on the creative act in present-day, control-obsessed societies). Rajchman asked how, in and with the arts and their institutions, spaces for open searches and researches could be devised, in which learning and unlearning, resonance and interference, a new affective solidarity and real experimentation might be possible before the onset of all sorts of methods, all forms of governance, all kinds of discipline and doxa.18

This form of experimentation does not lead to benchmark research results; nothing is ever proved or illustrated, regardless of what is in the images or what they may purport to show. Ever engaging in experiment Tillmans roams through the reality of materials, forms, affects and gives us tangible access to these unportrayble, unreferential realities. Tillmans engages his emotions when he is working, also and specifically when he is photographing people, or plants, machines and cities. Individual emotions separate off from the representation of living beings and objects and form nodes of emotion in the viewer’s mind. ‘Artists are presenters of affects, the inventors and creators of affects’, as Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari put it in What is Philosophy?, ‘they draw us into the compound’.19 And indeed Tillmans’ laboratories are places where emotion and affect are generated and presented, rhythmically resonating between pictures, from wall to wall, from room to room, from side to side. The dog asleep on the stones, its breathing body warmed by the sun (in the video Cuma, 2011), Susanne’s lowered gaze (in Susanne, No Bra, 2006), with the line of her hair encircling her head like an incomplete figure of eight, but also the disturbed, interrupted, lurking monochromaticism of the Lighter and Silver works – they all open up the longer you look at them, the longer you are with them, to a perceiving in terms of forces and affects. They alert us to the fact that all images are fabricated…

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Wolfgang Tillmans. 'Alex Lutz back' 1992

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Wolfgang Tillmans
Alex Lutz back
1992
© Wolfgang Tillmans. Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Cologne/Berlin

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Wolfgang Tillmans. 'Smokin Jo' 1995

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Wolfgang Tillmans
Smokin Jo
1995
© Wolfgang Tillmans. Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Cologne/Berlin

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Wolfgang Tillmans. 'Lutz & Alex sitting in the trees' 1992

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Wolfgang Tillmans
Lutz & Alex sitting in the trees
1992
Inkjet print on paper, clips
208 × 138 cm

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Assimilating Photography into the Paradox

By virtue of the portability and variability of his works, with every print, with every exhibition, with every publication Tillmans can modify and modulate anew the relations between picture and picture support, representation and presentation, motif and materiality. In the two decades that have elapsed since his entry into the art business his praxis has continuously expanded. From the outset photography was his springboard for both integrative and eccentric acts. And even though this oeuvre may create the impression that the medium of photography knows no limits, photography – as discourse, as technique, as history, as convention – has remained the constant point of reference for all of Tillmans’ complex operations. It could also be said that he is immensely faithful to his chosen medium, although – or precisely because – that medium is not always recognisable as such. To quote an older essay on photography and painting by Richard Hamilton (whom Tillmans once photographed), his work is about ‘assimilating photography into the domain of paradox, incorporating it into the philosophical contradictions of art….’30 Since Tillmans’ experiments with a laser copier in the 1980s, he has produced hundreds of images that may be beholden to the etymology of photography (light drawing) but that also constantly undermine or overuse the social and epistemological functions of photography as a means to depict reality, as proof, as an aide mémoire, as documentation or as a form of aesthetic expression. The discourse on photography, with all its ‘post-photographic’ exaggerations, the debate on the status of the photographic image – none of these have been concluded; on the contrary, Tillmans is continuously advancing them on his own terms. His praxis forms the backdrop for experimentation and adventures in perception that are closely intertwined with the past and the present of photography and theories of photography; yet the specific logic of this oeuvre creates a realm of its own in which archive and presentation interlock in such a way that photography still plays an important part as historic and discursive formation, but the problems and paradoxes of fine art have now taken over the key functions.

The contagious impact of the epistemological problems of art has opened up new options for the medium of photography, new contexts of reception. And in this connection it is apparent, as Julie Ault has put it, that ‘Tillmans enacts his right to complex mediation’.31 In other words, photography provides a means for him to engage with a whole range of interactions with the viewer. In his eyes and hands photography becomes a realm of potential, where a never-ending series of constellations and juxtapositions of materialities, dimensions and motifs of the ‘unforeseen’ can come about. Photography thus regains a dimension of experimentation, an openness that is not constrained by aesthetic formats and technical formatting but that does arise from a precise knowledge and understanding of the history of the medium.”

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Extracts from Tom Holert. The Unforeseen. On the Production of the New, and Other Movements in the Work of Wolfgang Tillmans. Online catalogue

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Footnotes from extracts

  • 1. “Peter Halley in Conversation with Wolfgang Tillmans”, in Jan Verwoert, Peter Halley and Midori Matsui, Wolfgang Tillmans (London: Phaidon, 2002), 8-33 at 29
  • 2. Steve Slocombe, “Wolfgang Tillmans – The All-Seeing Eye”, in Flash Art, vol. 32, no. 209, November–Decem- ber 1999, 92-95 at 95
  • 3. Jan Verwoert, “Survey: Picture Possible Lives: The Work of Wolfgang Tillmans”, in Verwoert et. al., Wolfgang Tillmans, 36-89 at 72
  • 4. See Slocombe, “Wolfgang Tillmans – The All-Seeing Eye” (see note 2), 95
  • 5. See Julia Peyton-Jones and Hans Ulrich Obrist, “Interview with Wolfgang Tillmans”, in Wolfgang Tillmans (London: Serpentine Gallery/Koenig Books, 2010), 21-27 at 24
  • 7. Wolfgang Tillmans, email of 12 May 2012.
  • 8. Julie Ault, “Das Thema lautet Ausstellen Installations as Possibility in the Practice of Wolfgang Tillmans”, in Wolfgang Tillmans. Lighter (Stuttgart/Berlin: Hatje Cantz/SMB), Nationalgalerie Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, 2008, 27
  • 9. See Hans Ulrich Obrist, Wolfgang Tillmans (Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 2007 = The Conversation Series, 6), 41
  • 10. Gil Blank, “The Portraiture of Wolfgang Tillmans”, in Influence, 2, autumn 2004, 110-21 at 117
  • 12. Jacques Rancière, Aisthesis. Scènes du régime esthétique de l’art (Paris: Galilée, 2011), 10
  • 18. Zepke (ed.), Deleuze, Guattari and the Production of the New (London: Continuum, 2008), 80-90 at 89
  • 19. See Deleuze and Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 175
  • 30. Richard Hamilton, “Photography and Painting”, in Studio International, vol. 177, no. 909, March 1969, 120-25 at 125
  • 31. Julie Ault, “The Subject Is Exhibition” (see note 8), 15

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Moderna Museet, Stockholm

Moderna Museet is ten minutes away from Kungsträdgården, and twenty minutes from T-Centralen or Gamla Stan. Walk past Grand Hotel and Nationalmuseum on Blasieholmen, opposite the Royal Palace. After crossing the bridge to Skeppsholmen, continue up the hill. The entrance to Moderna Museet and Arkitekturmuseet is on the left-hand side.

Opening hours:
Tuesday 10-20
Wednesday-Sunday 10-18
Monday closed

Moderna Museet 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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