"Available Fall 2011" from powerHouse Books. We will, er, alert you to* the news when the time comes.
In a sort of odd counterpoint to this (in that they both relate to acceptance and rejection of photographers by audiences and establishments) a reader in the same mail sent me a link to this short article criticizing the narrowing focus of a public gallery and its prestigious prize. The article's author, Sean O'Hagan, opines that the Deutsche Börse prize should be rebranded as as a "conceptual photography prize." He notes that one of the four nominees for the £30,000 prize, Thomas Demand, "...is essentially an installation artist, who builds three-dimensional, life-size replicas of places he has come across in found photographs. He then re-photographs his painstaking creations."
Demand is represented in this show by a single image entitled Heldenorgel, a paper replica of an open-air church organ from the village in Bavaria where he grew up. Built in 1931 to commemorate Germany's war dead, it plays the same piece of music at the same time every day. In Demand's photograph, the organ looks oddly flat and unreal; a dead thing in itself. This is intentional. The very model-ness of his subjects, and their lack of detail, is a central part of their otherness, their ominousness. Nevertheless, it took him 10 weeks to construct the model from glue and paper. Here, the process is all, and the end result simply a visual record of the end result. (Demand destroys his creations after he has photographed them.)
Indeed. don't suppose you can usefully designate "opposites" among art photographers, but from this description, Thomas Demand and an alienated French nanny doing street photography in complete anonymity and in a country foreign to her have to be pretty far apart....
Count me, I guess, as one of "the many photographers who value practice over theory."
(Thanks to Eric Kellerman)
*Read "beat you over the head with."
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by David Comdico: "I think Demand is a poor choice to demonstrate the hypothesis that art photography has become a visual gag, which I think is the case. The irony of the wealthy supporting art that itself takes as its subject the soulessness of late capitalism is so juicy to almost redeem the entire enterprise. Almost.
"Demand is a bit different because the photographs themselves hold up to long viewing and the construction of the models are themselves witty and skillful. As photographs I think they work; their astringency cleans your palate. But you wouldn't want to make it your entire meal.
"It's interesting to think of Demand's work vis-à-vis other installation artists who work with fragile materials, say Andy Goldsworthy. I prefer Goldsworthy's work, but even still, I like having the contrast; the foil allows one to think about the work of each. Or, taking this comparison a step further, what about Robert Smithson—how long will the Spiral Jetty last? Will the photographs of it last longer? If so, will each artist then still exist in different categories? They may, in fact, but it's this tug that is interesting.
"And, finally, remember that Duchamp, the proto-postmodernist, almost always found a way to make his work lack any authenticity, either through the readymade or through the creative act of (accidentally) destroying the original—or sometimes conveniently misplacing it. Rhonda Roland Shearer is, to me, convincing on this point.
"So does all of this redeem the crappy postmodern photo supported by impenetrable jargon and a phalanx of art prospectors? I suppose that largely depends on whether you own stock in the company store."