ABSTRACTS OF PRESENTATIONS
Sven Birkerts will discuss his views of the cultural transformation that we are now in the midst of, paying special attention to the implications of the shift from traditional print-style literacy to digital literacy.
In the United Kingdom, 1998 was designated as the Year of Photography and the Electronic Image, as part of a series leading up to the millennium in which a different art-form was to be celebrated each year. Photo 98, as it became called, surpassed all the other Years Of in raising unprecedented funds for the commissioning of new work from mainly British photographers and artists. Over $6 million was raised to finance the creation and promotion of a year long program of exhibitions, public art, conferences and community education projects. Paul Brookes, the Chief Executive of Photo 98, will talk about how the year was organized and some of the opportunities it created. He will show examples of some of the works commissioned which are relevant to the seminar's underlying theme of image/text.
We live in an "information age" and our lives are surrounded by information technologies. One may be captured and held fast by the blue light of a computer or television, somewhat like the frogs fascination for (and inability to move from) a flashlight beamed in its face. We can be mesmerized by electric information. The artist will invite consideration of pre-electric information systems, those based on imagination and the writings of Rupert Sheldrake and Gaston Bachelard.
This presentation addresses the ideas that informed the exhibition "The Next Word." In particular, the notion of visual language in various domains of contemporary art and design and across a wide range of media.
"The image in art is usually presented as an expression of what Howard Singerman describes as a "Gestaltung," a concept coming from aesthetic theory that locates it as a "miraculating" experience; this means that the image comes into being in some unexplained fashion. I wish to reconsider the image as a metonymy of its production. This locates the image within cultural politics and, at the same time, preserves certain aesthetic concerns. In this way, I wish to argue that the relationship between image and text in photography and, indeed, art in general, is such that the text usually reveals the social strategies and the production processes of the work. Text and image function within a metonymic framework where, in a system of reversal, one becomes the specific instance of the other. Metonymic relationships are arbitrary. This arbitrariness displaces the old interpretation of the image as being miraculated, an idea that makes the image discretely separate from its production.
During the 1970s, Asco (Spanish for nausea), the East L.A. visual/performance art group, utilized the "No Movie" to satirize aspects of contemporary Chicano culture and popular culture. The combination of text and photography was essential to generating myths while counteracting negative stereotypes. During the 1980s and 1990s, the Fotonovela has provided an intermedia format whereby the individual is defined/defied via a series of actions and dialogues that lead to the affirmation/nullification of social order. Issues related to strategies of surviving perceptual flux will be discussed.
"The image in art is usually presented as a expression of what Howard Singerman descibes as a "Gestaltung," a concept coming from aesthetic theory that locates it as a "miraculating" experience; this means that the image comes into being in some unexplained fashion. I wish to reconsider the image as a metonymy of its production. This locates the image within cultural politics and at the same time preserves certain aesthetic concerns. In this way, I wish to argue that the relationship between image and text in photography, and indeed, art in general, is such that the text usually reveals the social strategies and the production processes of the work. Text and image function within a metonymic framework where, in a system of reversal, one becomes the specific instance of the other. Metonymic relationships are arbitrary. This arbitrariness displaces the old interpretation of the image as being "miraculated," an idea that makes the image discretely separate from its production."
William Gass shall discuss his use of images in the discovery of verbal notation, as subject-matter for fiction, as a design and memory aid, as a visual track in fiction presentations and as a constituent element in the making of a story.
For over twenty years my work has involved collaborations with mostly invisible or misunderstood groups of people. Through my personal involvement over an extended period of time, I strive to create the most honest portrayal of the people I document. I use the images and materials I collect as a way to illuminate larger issues of the relationship of the individula to society, while, also, exploring and expanding the form of documentary photography.
The significant bodies of work include "Rich and Poor" (1977-85), a book and exhibition about wealthy people and poor hotel residents in San Francisco; "The Nursing Home" (1985-86), an exhibition and permanent public installation dealing with a group of nursing home residents in Cambridge, Massachusetts; "Raised by Wolves" (1986-95), a book project and traveling exhibition on runaway teenagers in Los Angeles and San Francisco; and a documentation of my fathers death in hospice care (1992-93) which was included in "Hospice: A Photographic Inquiry," a traveling group show and catalog.
Based in photography, my work utilizes other representational elements including text (handwritten comments, transcribed interviews, found documents, letters, etc.), audio recordings, single- and multi-channel video and sculptural objects. These elements are often presented in an installation context that gives the work an encompassing, three-dimensional quality.
The sequencing, layering and combination of the media build the story experientially. In "Raised by Wolves," truth and fiction were often juxtaposed so that the narrative could progress through frames of metaphor and myth (personal, historical and societal). My hope is that the end result is an opening of avenues to a deeper realism about the difficult social issues and stereotypes which, in turn, evokes universal questions about everyones lives and responsibilities.
The diverse artworks of Hachivi Edgar Heap of Birds are created from concepts and images that present a pulse of forms in action, reflecting the constructive and destructive politics of daily life.
A major portion of these works is presented via text. These word-based notions represent complex daily memories and reactions which we all possess. Through everyday experiences, a diary full of ideas can be recorded. As we travel and also live through familiar home activities, remarks are collected. These notations on personal reflection chronicle ones thoughts. Utilizing black markers and 6 x 9 large scale rag paper, text is rendered, both in small and large sizes, to expose diaristic pages.
Urban text works are also a main focus of Heap of Birds political broad-sides. These intervention works, via billboards and digital signs, are often deployed in cities and deal in depth with Native/Anglo historical and often polemic incidents.
In his seminar, Heap of Birds will discuss the varied uses of text in both personal/private and political/public messages.
Images / text relationships have been central to the strategies and meanings of some of my most personal work. I will begin with a brief slide presentation of this work with a discussion of the issues involved. I will then show videotaped excerpts of my performance and video installation projects and discuss the transition I have made from private to public forms of artmaking. Some of the issues to be raised will be: How do artists reconcile the often competing demands of obligation and freedom of creative work and what are some of the formal and conceptual issues that have helped the progression of my new genre work?
I will discuss and present slides of social documentary work by artists related to my role as Director of the Mother Jones International Fund for Documentary Photography.
In this lecture, Angela Kelly traces her involvement in art-making from her critical documentary photography to current work using digital technology, addressing issues of personal history and social memory. Through photography, Kelly explores the intersection of the personal, cultural and social, employing documentary, installation and digital strategies to create a poetics of memory.
Susan Meiselas and Lorie Novak will discuss their Web projects "akaKURDISTAN," http://www.akakurdistan.com, and "Collected Visions," http://cvisions.cat.nyu.edu.
"akaKURDISTAN" seeks to create a collective memory through a cultural exhangeinviting the Kurdish community as well as foreign travelers, historians and archivists to contribute in both storytelling and identifying photographs from Kurdish history.
"Collected Visions" is a participatory site that explores the relationship between family photographs and memory. Viewers can search and view images from, as well as add to, the online database of more than 1200 images. Tools are given to create and submit live photographic essays. Changing exhibitions of these essays are presented in the Collected Visions Gallery and then archived in the Collected Visions Museum.
After presenting their websites, Meiselas and Novak will discuss the similarities and differences of their projects, as well as deal with the issues surrounding community collaborations and collecting stories and history on the Web.
Susan Otto works to understand the intersections of public and private space, the aesthetics of extreme emotions and the unconscious and material workings of power within the cultural sphere. These ideas manifest conceptural cross media actions of production in photography, film, video, sculpture, installation, sound and language. The work is located in a critical and poetic contemporary context and focuses on interventions into the geography of colonialism.
Social space exists as a labyrinth of relationships between discreet moments and objects. This interrogation of assumptions of cultural hierarchy through audience confrontation and participation are designed to temporarily transform the environment and alter perceptions. The works ultimately cease to exist, as they are dismantled into a landscape of incongruent objects, including pathways and networks that facilitate the exchange of matter and information. Such objects exist autonomously but also in a web of relations, which ultimately disintegrates fetish matter into a virtual web of references. These connections are what produce meaning. The artists role is as a catalyst to transform everyday patterns of life from fixed to fluid, from deterministic to existential.
This presentation will offer a detailed, behind-the-scenes look at the trials and tribulations of organizing a modest-size contemporary group exhibition in collaboration with institutions in Rotterdam, Barcelona and Lille. The exhibition, Voices, started as a glimmer of an idea and developed over a two-year period into a full-blown show and catalogue, featuring artists such as Vito Acconci, Gary Hill, Kristin Oppenheim, Genevieve Cadieux, Judith Barry, Pierre Huyghe and others. In this talk, topics of discussion will include proposal writing, budget-deciphering, artist/curator relations, traveling exhibitions design, catalogue design and strategies for staying sane when everything goes disastrously wrong. Slide and video documentation of the final exhibition will be shown.
A wide-ranging roundup and discussion of the years most provocative book publications in photography, contemporary art, electronic media and critical theory.
The talk will be about how media of communication alter our psychic habits, our social relations and our political ideas. Postman will begin by making the observation that God was interested in this question, since the second and third commandments of the decalogue are about the effects of media on human consciousness. Socrates and Plato were preoccupied with this question as well. In other words, Postman will try to provide a historical perspective on the issue of how media and human beings transact, ending with a series of questions about what we might do to retain our humanity, if not sanity, while living in a technological society.
In her presentation, Arlene Raven will demonstrate a method for drawing and writing about one's own work, beginning with slide critiques, and from there move towards finding the words for each artist to best describe his or her work and vocation. Exercises in pairs and individual writing will be presented in such a way that the audience will be able to participate. This session addresses image and text directly, as explanation and/or as part of expression.
After experiencing detrimental chemical exposure in the darkroom, photographer Sharon Stewart widened her view of concern to her native Texas. The resulting photonarrative, Toxic Tour of Texas, draws upon interviews with community activists who challenged government and industry hazardous waste practices. In her four year documentation, Stewart also interviewed industry and government representatives to present the dynamic of perspective that drives this complex subject. A reflection of the efficacy of personalizing the issue by giving a voice to the images will be explored, particularly in the light of the photonarratives numerous presentation venues.
In a medium preoccupied with text and with the creation of sensuality, desire, and surrogate flesh, insufficient attention has been paid to online communication in which there is deliberate absence of text. Alluquere Rosanne Stone will discuss some of the implications of this unique form of online communication, and, using paralinguistic cues, she will propose a typology of online communities in three parts: Neonatal, adolescent, and mature. Then, from the gently parodic ZenMoo to the most advanced of the mature social spaces, she will give a tour of a few exemplars and discuss their unusual ways of (un)creating corporeality.
Word and image were once one. A cataclysm caused their split, and theyve been trying to get back together again ever since. David Levi Strauss will talk about this original split, recent attempts at union and the resulting illegitimate offspring (what Burroughs and Gysin called "the third mind"). On the way, Levi Strauss will talk about the difference between information and culture and the effects of new word and image technologies on representation and memory.
Deborah Williss research is a critical study of the photographic history of the black female body in photography, entitled The Black Female Body in Photography. It will include images from photographys invention in 1839 to the present. Her collaborator, Carla Williams, is a photohistorian from the Getty Museum. Photographic images of black women from the 19th century are few. In Western visual art, the image of the black female has traditionally been marginal. Historically, the body of the black female has symbolized three themes: colonialism, scientific evolution and sexuality, and her representation in art and photography has followed along these prescribed lines.
The book will, through direct comparisons, set up a dialogue between historical images of black women created primarily by males and contemporary photographs made by black female artists, as well as provide an overview of the history of the image of the black female.
The book is structured thematically to emphasize the comparisons of images from very different historical periods within genres, rather than present the images along a straight timeline of development. The goal of the book is to examine the subject of the black female in art and visual culture since the invention of photography and to explore how images communicate and come to define the subjects. What is perhaps most interesting in such a study is the comparison between the past and the present, especially given the current climate in which the historically "pictured" black female has aggressively begun to "picture" herself with a conscious and informed eye on these visual legacies.
Janet Zweig has used language in most of her artwork over the past twenty years. She will show examples of her earlier work in artists books, her gallery sculptures that permute text and her public sculpture. Shell discuss her use of permutational and recursive procedures. Shell also discuss collaborative projects.
This panel consists of artists who work with language as a medium and will investigate various strategies for using language as a tool in art practice. Each person enacts a conceptual approach to art making with social critique. Each artist represented also works in a cross media capacityfrom sculpture, film, photography, video, installation, sound and language. Language manifests as a formal element, as script, dialogue, speech, information or sound. Like images, language is an effective vehicle for ideology and can be seen as a structure to be examined.
Who is speaking? Who writes history? Whose voice is heard? What is revealed through vocabulary? What are future implications for language in the realm of technology and information?