“Photography is our exorcism”, Jean Baudrillard, La transparence du mal
Thanatology asserts that not seeing the dead body of our beloved ones, prevents us from accepting their death. Contemplating the body of the deceased helps us overcome one of the most complex stages of grief: denial.
Weems came of age in the 1960s and early ’70s in the US, amidst the Civil Rights Movement and second-wave feminism. When she got hold of her first camera in 1973, a 20th birthday present, she was working with a Marxist organization in San Francisco where she lived with her young daughter. Like many artists questioning cultural myths and social conventions around this time, it was through photography that she found a way into the complicated power structures and histories she wanted to redress. Since the 1980s, most often via conceptual photographic series, Weems has recalibrated the visual cues through which we read and understand gender, class and, most powerfully, race. If this makes her work sound didactic or antagonistic, it’s neither. Weems has an intractable belief in the capacity for compassion that inflects her work with wit and generosity. Continue reading Carrie Mae Weems→
The Punk Project is one of over a dozen series of photographs in which Korean-born New York photographer Nikki Lee pushes the boundaries of identity and place, of who we are and how others see us in proximity to the people we choose to surround ourselves with. She places herself within the frame of her images, transforming herself into the documented subject after constructing the context and setting the stage. She performs identity – reinventing herself with the stereotypes, media hype, codes, and clues that look into and out from a given community, infiltrates that community, and presents us with a new version of herself. She is a respectful tourist shopping for who she is within a subculture, stretching the very skin of her own identity to find a fit. Her images dig deep into the construction of community and ego, of social roles and what it means to be self-defined and/or categorized by someone else. She ultimately asks, are personal identity and communal identity fluid?
Using the camera as catalyst, Lorna Simpson is a conceptual artist who constructs assemblies of text and image, parts to wholes, commenting on the documentary nature of found or staged images. The exhibition follows Simpson’s point of view and themes beginning with her earliest documentary photographs from the late 1970s / early 1980s, never before exhibited, to her most recent works. It includes large-scale photo-text pieces of the mid-1980s that first brought her to critical attention and offered stark abstracted images of an African-American female figure (at times male as well), head cropped from the frame or back turned to the camera, nonetheless given voice through text panels or captions, a proto-cinematic construction of shot and script.
The origin of this work of self-fiction can be found in one of São Trindade’s sketchbooks. This work is entirely devoted to the subject of loss and decadence. With references to the aesthetics of crime scenes and nightlife photographed by Weegee in New York in the ’30s and ’40s, the device is simple: in ‘real decor,’ São Trindade’s body, abandoned and unconscious, is photographed. The body is always the same but ‘prepared’ and ‘composed’ with new dresses, new gestures, new signs of a recent activity or a different personality. Each image has its particular story and each space is a sounding board for each of these performative states of the body.