archive fever and the cultural imaginary

*outline for a talk for the Shanghai Institute of Art and Fashion this May

when you look at contemporary art, you see that many artists start as collectors of images, news, celebrity, pornography, fashion, documentary, illustrations – i want to talk today about the artist as collector of the image but not just ordinary images, rather the right image.  but let me be clear from the outset, that it is not just the image, but the image under the eye and through the process of the artist that the artist sees. he or she see the in others words, take these examples, richard prince sees not the marlboro man but a western cowboy, gerhard richter sees not the badder manholf gang but the erasure of this painful german period as the erasure of memory and the the photographic image, or cindy sherman, in the images she finds she sees herself in that image, enacting that person which is fact her, or finally take for example zhou teihai when he saw joe camel he saw it as a way to read america, the west, portraiture painting, — each of these artists saw images we all see but saw them in a unique way that allowed them to take possession of them.  but let’s not get ahead or ourselves and let’s start first with the archive and seeing.

before the internet artists would scour magazines, bookshops, libraries, memorabilia stores, museums, pornography shops, advertisements, television, record covers, comic books, police forensic images, medical records – all manner of visual records of all manner of visual instruments. after all each visual instrument produced a particular vantage point, texture, record, recording. think for a moment only of google images and the odd angles and moments that the google camera car produces or even the instagram camera, or any number of filters or apps used now with our phones – this is to say that each recording instrument produces a particular recording. equally each recording event has a social and material context, a form and set of protocols that shape such recordings.

the artist reads these recording and sees in them another. not only that, the artist sees recording as the subject of imaging. (more on that later)

what i would like to do is spend time with you looking at a number of contemporary art works and talk to you about what the artist is seeing – more particularly how and through what lens the artist is constructing the work, that is in a sense, something already seen, but something as writer william burroughs, says produces a surprised recognition. what does he mean by that, he means you have already seen the image, this is why you recognize it, but equally you are surprised because you haven’t.   hence the image archive remade rethought.

how does the image become a painting, the basis for a performance, a theatre, an inspiration for fashion.

*here i go through many examples of works and talk about how these images were made, remade and circulated. how inspiration comes from everywhere.

Jeff Wall
Cindy Sherman
Alexander McQueen
Zhou Teihai
Gerhard Richter
Marc Jacobs
Juicy Couture
Wooster Theatre Group
Select Tumblr Blogs
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Wes Anderson
etc….

*I close the talk presenting new works of mine that are about imaging the reading space of the archive, how image becomes the coin of the realm.

In time, each of us creates our own archive of images, of feelings, quotations, thoughts, all now public on the network FB, Flickr, Tumblr, Pinterest. TheFancy

Each of us puts our collections (often we have more than one) in circulation on the network and each of us can have a copy of what the other has – each can pass around and annotate the same work, the same file, a picture, a video, music, a quotation – in these works I want to present an image of this discursive system that puts these collections in play. of course my collection has a particularity in its subject matter that carries concerns about desire, memory, social networks, the archive, language, love.

in the gift giving of image, an exchange, a relay of exchanges and circulations accrue, where images produce social bindings, empathies, (solidarity’s, perhaps)  and abjections. they produce uncensored conversation even if it is most often minimal, we see the likes, the names of users, their statements of likes, and in this longings, aloneness, fear and loathing – .

here there is unguarded emotion, there is no neutrality. here the archive (blogs) is as a compensation in the psychoanalytic sense, a representational form of our unwieldy desires.

how i approach and image the archive – a way to think of this is the bringing back the meta tag of ‘marlboro’ to the cowboy pictures of richard prince.  here rather that strip away to get to the image alone we want to see images in social circulation with all its readers and annotations, with the software system that marks it up and makes it legible – we want to read no so much against this legibility but rather read this legibility.

here we see literally the meta discourse around desire and the social circulation of desire through image as these images, this imaging of the archive put forward the circulation system of the archive itself, the software presentation layer and schema that orchestrate its

in this environment it is the viewfinder of the desktop camera that frames and thereby reads this visual panoply. shift command 4, the desktop camera re-records and revisions the archive making seen all those things that are commonly off screen, outside of sight. yet in the context of the electronic and socially circulated archive it is precisely those things that are now to be seen.

there is of course another level to all of this circulation, this blogging, reblogging, commentating, all of it is data that is somewhere and everywhere gathered and sorted as another image of you, an image that sees you, user 10497, as an archive of appetites to be sold to a backend auction.

who reads who and for what cascades into a fever. while smartbots read you, you long to read or not, the love note that may come your way or masturbate in waiting or go make love to your lover, seeing him or her as images you saw earlier.

performance, depiction, reportage

The workshop will explore and discuss 3 modes of photography asking students to do 1 of the following 3 exercises and then to present and discuss work with the group.

1.
Create an event for recording, an action, create a performance and document it, not depicting an action, not staging the photograph but the performance which is documented here we discuss the aesthetics of improvisation: intermissions, interruptions, and digressions, the setting about of instructions or limits for event to be recorded

2.
Staging a constructed images   the imagined, the artificial and the literary, preparation to take the photo and collaboration with others, here we enact a photograph, we stage recreate or stage an action that we want to see a happen distinct from above where we want to let things happen.

3.
Reportage, documentation, what do we mean by it.  Capture the world for what you see, reportage tradition, this ability to create visual reports as they occur, what came with photography to create these visual reports as they occur. Here we witness, document.

All of these are autobiographical gestures about what artists want to be –  each student will choose one of the 3 approaches, create works and present to the class.  the workshop is about finding the problems that you can connect to as a person and revealing your abilities to yourself.

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