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Thread: International Center of Photography

  1. #1

    Default International Center of Photography

    September 7, 2003

    Everyone Has an Ennial; Now It's Photography's Turn

    By BARBARA POLLACK

    VENICE, Kassel, Kwangju, Shanghai, Taipei, Cairo, Seoul, São Paulo and, going on right now, Istanbul. If there has been any discernible trend in the art world during the last decade, it has been the explosion of international biennials, triennials, quadrennials and so on, proliferating in every corner of the planet. Now, starting on Saturday, the International Center of Photography is bringing its first Triennial of Photography and Video straight to midtown Manhattan. It is by far the largest and most expensive exhibition ever mounted by the center, taking four curators three years to assemble the more than 100 works, by 40 artists, photographers, photojournalists and filmmakers, that will be on view through November.

    For the center, the exhibition, titled "Strangers," represents a giant step forward into the contemporary-art world, with a roster of internationally known art stars like Shirin Neshat, Rineke Dijkstra, Philip-Lorca di Corcia, Justine Kurland and Collier Schorr. It is also a departure from the center's traditional emphasis — photojournalism and documentary photography — giving free rein to conceptual-art projects and granting video equal footing with still photography.

    In fact, no museum in New York has undertaken an exhibition of this scope since the Museum of Modern Art mounted "An International Survey of Contemporary Painting and Sculpture," in 1984, well before anyone even considered photography on a par with other media and well before countries like China, Nigeria, South Africa and Iran were added to our definition of "international." Other museums, like P.S. 1, the Asia Society and the New Museum of Contemporary Art, have done a formidable job of mounting exhibitions offering telescopic, rather than panoramic views, of the global art world. But the International Center of Photography's triennial will be the first expansive look at global photo-based art-making to take place in New York City.

    "We see this as a great opportunity to give viewers a sense of the enormous activity that is taking place all around the world today," said Christopher Phillips, the center's senior curator. "My own feeling is that the New York museum and gallery scene has grown increasingly provincial over the past 10 or 15 years."

    The triennial represents an audacious effort by a museum to share the stage with huge international festivals like the annual Fotofest in Houston and the biennial Mois de la Photo in Paris, which have been leaders since the 1980's in finding and showing photographic works. Meanwhile, international surveys like Documenta have come to be dominated by photography and video. But the big question for the International Center of Photography's first show is whether the audience for "ennials" of all kinds has grown jaded with such surveys and will greet the effort with a yawn, or worse, derision, as they did with this year's Venice Biennale. After all, if you take away the exoticism of foreign travel and the glamour of discovering new art in new locales, the shortcomings of overreaching shows can become all the more apparent.

    Under the rubric "Strangers," Mr. Phillips, along with the center's chief curator, Brian Wallis, and their colleagues Carol Squiers and Edward Earle, developed a theme that could encompass a wide variety of approaches in contemporary photography.

    "At the beginning, the concept of strangers was very broadly defined as artists leaving their studios and engaging with people who where unknown to them," said Ms. Squiers, who found this trend refreshing after a decade of Nan Goldin and Cindy Sherman wannabes making a fetish of self-examination. Starting with well-known photographers like Philip-Lorca di Corcia re-examining the genre of street photography, she soon found many other surprising approaches to photographing people you don't know.

    Shizuka Yokomizo, for example, sent letters to a group of people, chosen randomly by their street addresses, asking them to pose by their windows at a particular time on a specific day. Capturing her subjects through a telephoto lens, Ms. Yokomizo never met any of the participants, yet the resulting prints in her "Dear Stranger" series practically telegraph their interior thoughts.

    As Ms. Squiers explained, "Gradually, the definition came to include not only pictures of unknown persons, but works dealing with alienation, cultural displacement, immigration and nationality." Intervening world events (from Sept. 11 and the war in Iraq to the escalating violence in the Middle East and the bombings in Indonesia) only bolstered the curators' initial suspicion that stranger-ness — fear and distrust of others while not necessarily feeling comfortable in our own skins — may indeed be the new universal condition.

    By juxtaposing the work of practicing photojournalists with projects by gallery-oriented, photo-based artists, "Strangers" offers the opportunity to re-evaluate both approaches, while demonstrating that the chasm between the two genres is rapidly evaporating. The New York artist Nancy Davenport's fabricated scenes of terrorist attacks in urban environments seem as "truthful" as the understated streetscapes of David Goldblatt, a South African photojournalist. And multimedia strategies employed by conceptual artists like Renée Greene and Coco Fusco seem to have informed the latest work of the photojournalist Susan Meiselas, which is an exploration of outsiders' encounters with the Dani, the indigenous people of the West Papuan highland, over the last century.

    Perhaps the most visible evidence of this convergence can be found in Luc Delahaye's "Jenin Refugee Camp," a mural-size print worthy of Andreas Gursky, viscerally charged by its presentation of grand-scale destruction caused by the irresolvable differences between "neighbors" (Palestinians and Israelis) who can only consider each other "strangers." Still more frightening is a 1996 French film by Eyal Sivan, "Itsembatsemba: Rwanda One Genocide Later," an animated compilation of still photographs and radio broadcasts that proves the impossibility of explaining the deaths of 800,000 Tutsis at the hands of their fellow Rwandans during a three-month period in 1994.

    This vision of humanity is a far cry from Life magazine, or, more to the point, Edward Steichen's "Family of Man" exhibition, presented at the Museum of Modern Art in 1955 as a plea for universal humanism in the face of cold war divisiveness.

    "The underlying point of the `Family of Man' was that people are the same everywhere in the world and we need to find the points of commonality," Mr. Wallis said. "Most of the photographers in this show are looking at what occurs when people from very different cultures and very different backgrounds collide together for either personal reasons or due to mass political movements; they are asking, how do we negotiate difference in those intercultural encounters?" It's an open-ended question, the curators said, that can only be answered individually, by each artist in "Strangers."

    "If for no other reason than that it is right there in the name of this institution, it is part of our founding mission to deal with photography on an international level," said Willis E. Hartshorn, director of the International Center of Photography, knowing full-well that his use of the term "international" differs greatly from that of his predecessor, the center's founder and former director, Cornell Capa, who retired in 1994. (He is also the younger brother of the war photographer Robert Capa, who helped found the Magnum photo agency.) Because of Cornell Capa's charismatic leadership, the center developed a reputation as an institutionalized homage to "concerned photography," a throwback to a time when it was believed that the heroic efforts of photojournalists and documentary photographers could unite the world.

    Without entirely abandoning that mission, the center is determined to change its staid reputation. "The idea of concerned photography, the intrepid photographer who takes sides in issues and denies objectivity in the name of higher human values, has been somewhat disparaged since Capa's day," Mr. Wallis said. "But we found that some aspects were interesting and relevant and should be retained, even while we questioned the nature of documentary photography."

    The triennial arrives on the heels of a number of major changes at the International Center of Photography and is the public unveiling of its new attitude. In 2001, after a $22.5 million capital campaign, Mr. Hartshorn moved the museum out of its former home in a mansion on upper Fifth Avenue to its new Gwathmey-Siegel-designed facility on Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street. Its school (which has added a master of fine arts program run by Nayland Blake) is now situated across the street. Most important, in 1999, Mr. Hartshorn brought in Mr. Wallis, a former curator at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York and most recently a senior editor at Art in America, who then hired Mr. Phillips, Ms. Squiers and Mr. Earle, all of whom had published extensive critiques of the role of photography, culturally and politically.

    "Photography, more than any other art medium certainly, but probably more than any other means of communication, really relates directly to people's lives," Mr. Wallis explained. "The big struggle is to get people to see beyond the idea that a photograph is reality, to recognize that it is a construction, put together to convey an idea or point of view."

    Certainly, by focusing on current practices in photography and the theme of "Strangers," the International Center of Photography may have managed to rescue the triennial experience from the usual pitfalls — too big, too diffuse, too didactic — while exposing a much broader audience to the "can we ever understand one another?" debate that has hovered over the new global art world for the last decade. That question became far less rhetorical in New York after Sept. 11, 2001, an event that forged a communal spirit among some strangers living in the city, even as it raised suspicions and fears of other kinds of strangers.

    The center and its curators could not have found a more apt theme for an international survey show at this particular moment for this particular place. Perhaps the art world has no need for another triennial. But this may be an opportunity for Americans, especially those who live close to ground zero, to see that in a world filled with strangers, at least, we are not alone.


    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company


    www.icp.org

  2. #2

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    September 19, 2003

    PHOTOGRAPHY REVIEW | 'STRANGERS'

    The Gaze Turns Outward and Sees Estrangement

    By MICHAEL KIMMELMAN

    Slide Show: Strangers: The First I.C.P. Triennial

    NOT that anyone except the curators felt there was a pressing need for yet another art survey, but the first Triennial of the International Center of Photography is at least that rare case: an instructive, topical show.

    It is also timely. The theme, "strangers," is, in the nature of survey themes, nebulous enough to be a catchall for diverse brands of photography and video, which no doubt accommodated the different tastes of the four curators who put this together. But, for once, the title is also specific enough that it actually means something. After 9/11 the subject of strangers has gained traction and psychological resonance, although 9/11 happens not to be what any of the photographs or videos in this show are explicitly about.

    Instead, most of these works, in some way or another, express a cautionary view that the world is full of people who are strangers to one another. You might say that after years of navel-gazing, the climate of photo-based art has gradually shifted from me to them.

    That is now also the political condition to which everyone is slowly awakening. It is the state of being that David Goldblatt records with his pictures of clashing cultures in South Africa; and what Chien-Chi Chang records with his heroic double portraits of residents at a psychiatric asylum in Taiwan where patients are chained two by two, some of them discreetly holding hands; and what Coco Fusco records with her video of immigrants in Barcelona whom she invites to sing the Catalan national anthem. And it is also what Yto Barrada records with her photograph of Moroccan laborers, silently seated at row after row of tables in a factory, policed by managers, peeling shrimp.

    You wouldn't call this concerned photojournalism exactly. The artists don't expect to change the world by making pictures of it. They variously register people and places representative of the gaps and clashes that define us. Much of the work focuses on the Middle East and Africa, but that is not a stated theme. A few photographs stress architecture without any people: buildings as metaphors for estrangement. Efrat Shvily, for example, shoots construction sites in Israel and the West Bank, arid new settlements being built on suburban and contested land, unoccupied and shuttered. There is an inherent element of alienation to many of these triennial pictures and videos, which may leave you, by the end of the show, feeling a little melancholic.

    On the other hand, Philip-Lorca diCorcia'sluxurious and weirdly lighted photographs of anonymous passers-by on an arcaded street in Havana have the strange gravity and magical buoyancy of a García Márquez novel. Tim Maul's black-and-white pictures of nooks and crannies around New York record spots that a spiritualist told him had psychic traces of grief. The images are Atgetesque views, secondarily ironic, primarily poetic, the idea of strangers being implied only by their absence.

    The works here also meditate inevitably on the intrinsic mysteries of the photographic medium. After all, photography from the start has been about making pictures of strangers. Point and shoot: anyone with a camera can violate someone else's privacy just by pressing a button, which is what caused Cartier-Bresson to remark that there is something appalling about photographing people.

    One of the most shocking works in this show is by Harun Farocki, who presents grainy black-and-white surveillance tapes from a California maximum-security prison. We see an inmate shot and killed by guards after a fight with another inmate in the prison yard. Surveillance cameras and also mug shots: photographs monitor strangers. Mug shots were conceived in the 19th century to catalog and distinguish outlaws from the rest of society, to create a visual category of pariahs, who by definition are strangers to civil society.

    At the same time, photographs, even videos, can never really say very much about who is in them. Various triennial artists linger over details that supposedly tell us what we should know about a subject; acting like ethnographers, we are meant to decipher these details as signifiers. Zwelethu Mthethwa makes big color photographs of poor black South Africans posing in their houses, presenting themselves to the camera. One picture here shows two young men dressed in suits against a wall made of plain cardboard, shiny pots on a stove beside them — a relaxed image of vaguely mixed gender signals expressing individual humanity. These works are antidotes to the cliché of the black victim in South Africa, composed to make their subjects seem particular and less like social abstractions, which is to say less like strangers.

    Except that what can we ever know of somebody just from a picture? The most endearing work in the show is Rineke Dijkstra's excruciatingly funny four-minute video of a shy, cringing young girl with braces lip-synching moronic lyrics by the Backstreet Boys, a perfect expression of adolescent pain and desire, provoking empathy. Ms. Dijkstra also photographs Almerisa, a Bosnian girl whose family settled in Amsterdam, tracking her passage from little waif in her Sunday best — wearing funny blue socks and patent leather shoes, her tiny legs angling from the seat of a red plastic chair at a refugee center — into a teenager, assimilated, hard, trying to look at ease, preening disdainfully for the camera. Photographing the girl, Ms. Dijkstra affects the sympathetic dispassion of a family doctor examining a difficult patient.

    But other photographs of Almerisa might chart a different arc, make her seem like another young woman, tell another tale about adolescence and immigration. It is Ms. Dijkstra's privilege as an artist to choose the story she wants. Art only has to have its own integrity and completeness, which shouldn't be mistaken for the truth, even when a photograph looks straightforward.

    Several artists tackle this particular truism directly. Susan Meiselas has completed an extraordinary project, a result of which is a book published in conjunction with the triennial. She collected photographs and other materials documenting the encounter of foreigners with the Dani, an indigenous people of the West Papuan highlands, from their "discovery" by an American explorer in the late 1930's through their violent pacification by Indonesians to their present commodification as eco-tourist attractions.

    Ms. Meiselas's work expresses the essence of the notion of the stranger in modern culture and also the tricky nature of photographic reality, since photographers have portrayed the Dani differently over the years, as violent savages and noble warriors and happy nudists, depending on who was snapping the pictures and for whom.

    Luc Delahaye has taken a different tack toward the same issue. He has shot the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank as a wide panorama in which tiny figures crisscross a wasteland of rubble, beyond which a jumble of low-rise houses spill toward the horizon under puffy clouds. Mr. Delahaye has lately been making these sort of amazing panoramic photographs, not only in the Middle East but also in Afghanistan, at ground zero and other places.

    They are responses to standard photojournalism. News photographs focus on incidents. They get close in. They encapsulate a moment, which means they also leave out much of what it is actually like to stand in a place, where your field of vision is wide and all sorts of information compete for your attention. In Mr. Delahaye's panorama of Jenin it isn't immediately clear what you should be looking at or what is going on or even whether this is a coherent image, notwithstanding that it is spectacular. Distance, literal distance, in this case from the people he is shooting, represents a quality of estrangement and conveys the otherworldliness of the camp.

    The triennial does not distinguish between figures like Mr. Delahaye and artists like Justine Kurland, who photographs people in communes, or Collier Schorr, who photographs young German soldiers she dresses in Nazi uniforms, or John Schabel, who snaps pictures of people snapping pictures of other people, capturing the flash of their cameras, which look like ghostly orbs.

    The line between art and photojournalism, such as it is anymore, is here almost beside the point. Yoshua Okon has produced a hilarious video — I don't know whether you would call it art or low-budget reality television — in which he induces various strangers to improvise soap opera and other scenes in a furniture store in East Los Angeles. Rolling cameras inspire bizarre behavior, which is the basic lesson of all reality television, here played out on a discomfortingly intimate scale. At one point a heavy-set woman wearing a headband and glasses impulsively strangles a plaster bunny while rolling on a bed, cursing her mother-in-law, after which she laughs hysterically. Mr. Okon's camera lingers over her laughing for several minutes. She becomes a stranger whose privacy we feel we have suddenly invaded. The camera makes us into voyeurs.

    Then again, she chose to act before the camera. People today go to humiliating lengths to become somebody in the world by having their picture taken, only to make themselves seem more like strangers. Shizuka Yokomizo has produced a series of photographs called "Dear Stranger," for which she wrote anonymously to people with ground-floor apartments in Tokyo, London, New York and Berlin, asking them to stand by their windows at a particular moment on a certain evening to be photographed from the street. She refused to meet them. If they tried to meet her, she would not photograph them. If they declined to be photographed, they could close their curtains or draw the blinds. She and they had to remain strangers.

    The pictures show various people posing warily, framed by the panes of their windows, one man shirtless, wearing jeans, all of them stiffly staring into the darkness outside their apartments or half-smiling at the camera, skeptical, apprehensive, curious, compliant, vulnerable — their expressions are hard to fix.

    Through Ms. Yokomizo we become strangers looking into the bedrooms of exhibitionists. The portraits are hypnotic and alarming, although they are not really any more invasive than ordinary snapshots of strangers — the reverse, in fact. These people posed for their photographs. They present themselves to us.

    The pictures are intimate at the same time they remain mysterious. The bottom line is that every photograph finally makes a stranger of its subject.

    "Strangers: The First I.C.P. Triennial of Photography and Video,"organized by Edward Earle, Christopher Phillips, Carol Squiers and Brian Wallis, is at the International Center of Photography, 1133 Avenue of the Americas, at 43rd Street, (212)857-0090, through Nov. 30.

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

  3. #3

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    http://www.icp.org/




    September 14, 2006–January 7, 2007
    In a time of rampant natural disasters and urgent concerns about global environmental change, this exhibition demonstrates the ways in which the most interesting and engaging contemporary artists view the natural world. Shattering the stereotypes of landscape and nature photography, the thirty-nine international artists included in this survey boldly examine new concepts of the natural sphere occasioned by twenty-first-century technologies; images of destructive ecological engagement; and visions of our future interactions with the environment. Considering nature in the broadest sense, this exhibition reflects new perspectives on the planet that sustains, enchants, and—increasingly—frightens us.
    List of Artists
    Ecotopia is being organized by ICP curators Brian Wallis, Christopher Phillips, Edward Earle, and Carol Squiers, and assistant curator Joanna Lehan, and will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue.
    This exhibition made possible by United Technologies Corporation. Additional support provided by JPMorgan Chase.
    Additional support provided by Etant donnés: The French-American Fund for Contemporary Art, a program of FACE.
    Above: Mary Mattingly, The New Mobility of Home, 2005, © Mary Mattingly, Courtesy Robert Mann Gallery

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