Dom Ciancibelli 9:58pm, 26 February 2009
In a discussion awhile back here on haphazart linkwise (Ashley) wrote:
"At the risk if bursting some inflated egos, many images that we see in this forum are at best reiterations and regurgitations of visual issues that modernist painters and photographers resolved decades and indeed centuries ago. Thus there is not a lot to discuss."

On a related note we've been discussing the Golden Mean and Rule of Thirds in conjunction with aspect ratios. Rules and aspect ratios haven't been a consideration beyond Modernism in the other visual arts and are therefore passé.

The idea has prompted me to start thinking about all the "rules" connected with Modernism and how that all plays out given the relationships between photography and art. Photography was born into the era of Modernism and I'm asking myself if my personal work (as Krystina keeps claiming) has moved beyond the Modernist aesthetic. So I've been doing some research on the topic and have come up with some very interesting articles.

The Post-Modern Photography Movement
I have to disagree with Walther Robinson, editor-in-chief at Artnet when he says: " We don’t have art movements any more, we have market movements. In the place of successive modernist and post-modernist aesthetic revolutions -- now decades in the past -- we have fads and collector enthusiasms, things like Japanese anime, Chinese photography and the new Leipzig painters."

I believe that we are in the midst of a major movement in photography.  One that began more or less with Cindy Sherman in the seventies and continues today in the work of hundreds of artists using photography. The movement started a revolution in what is considered fine art photography: away from the formalist aesthetic of Harry Callahan,  Brett Weston Ansel Adams etc and to an idea driven use of the medium whose top practitioners today are Jeff Wall, Philip-Lorca Dicorcia, Andreas Gursky Cindy Sherman, Vik Muniz and many many more. It can be argued that all these artists are making photographs that are in some way about the sociological nature of photography itself.  That sounds like a movement to me.  It is this very shift in the use of photography that has resulted in a wide-spread acceptance of the medium along side painting, drawing and sculpture.

Further, to say that what has happened in photography is not a movement because of the multitude of approaches is not a valid argument. What is important is the break from tradition, in the same way that the impressionists broke from realism and the abstractionists broke from representation.
What makes the movement in photography unique is its non linear progression.  In contrast, the movements in painting have  for the most part followed one another: impressionism, post impressionism, cubism, abstract expressionism, minimalism etc. with a few offshoots here and there (e.g. surrealism).  The photographic movement is more like spokes on a bike wheel with the center being the break from the formal modernist ideals and the spokes being the various directions artists have pursued this break.  But it is all part of the same thing; just explored in a different way. There are two excellent books that have explored this very nature of this non-linear idea: David Campany's Art & Photography and Charlotte Cotton's The Photograph as Contemporary Art.

It is difficult to tell where we are within the postmodernist photographic movement, but I sense that we are approaching the end in that newer artists seem to be combining the modern and postmodern standard.  Its no longer okay to just use photography as a means to illustrate your ideas.  The end result must now adhere to the pristine standards of the modernist ideal as well.

Like Romeo and Juliet, modernism and photography just can't seem to live without one another. Due in part to the close proximity of their beginnings in the nineteenth century, photography's aspirations to legitimacy as an art form have been so firmly hitched to the wagon of modernism, that proponents of both the medium and the movement are almost hysterically attached to each other; much more so in modernism's relationship to photography than to any other medium. As a consequence of this codependent relationship, postmodernism has, to some, become the bad guy of the photography world, the interloper who would seduce photography to its own selfish ends, regardless of the consequences. This myth persists, despite the fact that photography plays a pivotal role, not only in postmodernist artworks, but indeed in creating what has been referred to as the "postmodern condition."
From: Trace and Transformation: American Criticism of Photography in the Modernist Period.

It was only after the turn of the century that photography began to breach the walls of the gallery and museum world in America, and even then with limited success. Now, however, photographs can sell for six figures — not in the same league as the millions for a Van Gogh painting, but not exactly chump change either — and be presented in fine art museums, not industrial expositions.

The question remains: if photography is an art, what kind of art is it? If we call a specific photograph a work of art does that mean it shows technical excellence? That it reminds us of a particular kind of painting or drawing? Provides a good record of something we regard as beautiful, such as a sunset?
Photographs need not be unique, unlike the Mona Lisa and other paintings, except for daguerreotypes. It's possible to make a lot of copies, so what does rarity mean? (Some photographers are now making "limited editions.") And since photographs can be taken in many ways, what makes one artistic and one ordinary? In the early days of the twentieth century, photographs imitated painting as the way to claim artistic status, modelling a photograph on Whistler's famous painting of his mother, or recording a New York skyscraper with compositional devices learned from Japanese prints and a dreamy softness that removed the image from being confused with an "objective" factual record.

Then along came modernism, and photography eventually caught up, with sharp-focus, and up-to-date notions of subject matter and treatment. Edward Weston's image of a pepper takes something that is familiar and common, isolates it to concentrate attention on it, and through careful lighting and printing makes it look like a monumental sculpture.
Finally . . . along came post-modernism, in the guise of Andy Warhol, who used photographs as the basis for paintings. Many photographers were no longer trying to go out and make pictures "from nature" in the manner of Ansel Adams. Adams, the figure probably most identified with beautiful photographs by the general public, was a man whose ideas about art were essentially ninteenth-century ideas. Post-modern photographers in the late twentieth century appropriated images from other sources such as photojournalism or advertising, or staged their own scenes instead of trying to go out on the streets and capturing "real life." Photography became a tool, and a modern and useful one. Beauty was one thing, "interesting visual images made using photography" was another, maybe. That's where we are today.

In slightly over a century and a half, photography has gone from outsider to insider status, but now the rules of the art game seem to have changed, as "mixed media" (collage and installation art, with photography, painting, and sculpture joined) and "new media" (video and computer) disrupt the old-fashioned divisions into painting, sculpture, and prints and drawings. Photography may be the new kid on the block, but the whole neighborhood is changing fast.
From: American Photography: A Century of Images

And this from The Slanted Penguin:

Photography as Postmodernism--or--Obscene Phone Pictures Do, In Fact, Make You an Artist

Philosophy and art may differ in their means of reflecting, expressing and transforming subject matters, but in many cases, they heavily influence one another. Different periods and movements throughout the history of art can be seen as direct reflections of various periods and movements of philosophy—so much so that we often define artistic periods by the philosophies they embody. Currently, photography is by far the largest, most accessible medium, and while there are many extemporaneous factors involved in the popularity of photography, its popularity makes complete sense in today’s philosophical climate. In this post, I want to explore the ways in which the popularity of photography makes complete sense within a purely postmodern aesthetic.

Fundamentally, photography is about perspective and interpretation. It doesn’t create or even transform anything as much as each shot provides a particular point of view. This ties in with postmodernism because the literal lens of the camera serves to provide a figurative lens for interpretation. Photography posits that everyone is entitled to their own interpretation, point of view or lens—both literally and figuratively—and the interpretations can not be viewed as right or wrong. With postmodernism, we often hear that not everyone is right, but no one is wrong. In photography, we have that same thing; not everyone’s end product will be the best, but we are unable to label any particular point of view as wrong, even if the photo itself could have been better.

Along side this is the photographic truism that everyone has something valid to contribute. Photography and postmodernism both posit that truth, insight and relevance can be found in all things, even if the things themselves are flawed. Even if one person’s photographs look better than another person’s, it doesn’t make the lesser person’s contribution meaningless. It’s not “what” you’re viewing as consumer but “how” you’re viewing it.

Which brings us to the next point that there is no objective place from which we can stand to take photos, much like postmodernism’s ideology that there is no objective place from which we can view and interpret the world. All places, both in photographs and in our lives, are subjective and open for interpretation or nuance. Value judgments such as beauty are reserved for the beholder or end consumer. In postmodern thought, there is no measuring stick for things like beauty and horror, and if something is beautiful to one person and hideous to another, neither person is wrong in his or her interpretation. With all art, the creator is never able to assign an emotive response to a piece, and no honest response can be labeled right or wrong.

Hand in hand with the validity of personal interpretation is the idea of adaptive reuse—or more appropriately, adaptive reinterpretation. Photography can show positive things in gruesome situations and vice versa. There are really two types of juxtaposition in photography, and each of them can lend credence to this idea. Physical items can be juxtaposed to show contrast, but more importantly, abstract ideas can be juxtaposed for a variety of reasons. Take, for example, a photo of a happy family being looked in on by a child who has clearly been abused, or a photo of a soldier coming back from a war, only to be met by protestors who are utilizing the very rights he sustains for them by shouting abrasive, hurtful things. Utilizing these techniques, photography is able to exploit or reinterpret preconceived notions about the subject matter in order for end users to begin to understand that their responses to the things around them are wholly up to them. It works to strip away (or at very least, bring to mind) the ideas of inherent or assigned values from every day things.

From a functional standpoint, the popularity of photography can be directly tied to the low price of admission—both financially and otherwise. On the financial side, literally anyone can go out and purchase a camera, albeit with varying degrees of quality. However, from an artistic standpoint, photography is attractive because of the low price of creative or skillful admission, not to mention the ubiquity of photo editing software. Sure, fine tuning photographic ability requires both creativity and skill, but anyone with a camera and an inkling of desire can become an artistic photographer. Functionally, this is the largest single reason photography is inextricably tied to postmodernism in as much as each of them is rooted in the idea that everyone has something valid to offer, regardless of background, ability, creativity or qualification.

The place where I get at odds with photographers is when they misunderstand my saying, “anyone can be a photographer,” with, “anyone can do what you do.” Inherently, this goes back to the issue of perspective for them because they view their photos as wholly different than anyone else’s photos, even if the subject matters are the same thing. The other place where I get in trouble with photographers is the issue of talent or creativity. Many times, photographers misunderstand my saying, “you don’t necessarily have to be talented or creative to be a photographer,” with, “there is no creativity or talent involved with photography.” Simply put, some photographers are creative and talented, but creativity and talent are not requisites for becoming a photographer.

To some degree, all art is about contemplation for me. Art works best when it has a cyclical or viral nature: the art itself elicits a particular response, resulting in an interpretation, which in turn results in another response or realization, which results in yet another interpretation (and often a reinterpretation of the art itself), and so the cycle continues between (re)interpreting and responding. In this way, art can truly be timeless if it is able to evoke responses throughout all contexts. The overall idea being that the interpretation and response to one thing leads to the questioning, interpretation and response to another. When art makes you question something on a visceral level, that questioning can become viral to the point where, “what makes art art,” eventually leads back to, “what makes me me?” While I don't believe the connection is that literal, it does function that way on different levels for different people. As for photography specifically, I think the entire spectrum of photography is fairly true to the spectrum of people who create it: the overwhelming majority is worthless but meaningful to someone nonetheless.
thoughtfactory PRO Posted 9 years ago. Edited by thoughtfactory (member) 9 years ago
I concur with a lot of this especially its starting point, namely, linkwize's judgement that abstraction in photography is " at best reiterations and regurgitations of visual issues that modernist painters and photographers resolved decades and indeed centuries ago." I would qualify this by dropping the "centuries ago" as it is modernism that has pretty much defined the horizons of contemporary art photography, whteher we like it or not. Hence the tradition of abstract modernism needs to be questioned.

What does need to be discussed is the shift away from a formalist modernism to postmodernism since there are many different currents within this tectonic shift. I have explored some strands in this shift on the

I would argue than the shift away from modernism is broader than the move to postmodernism, however we define that--eg., the 1970s work
of Cindy Sherman, the pop art work of Andy Warhol; the appropriation of images from other sources such as photojournalism or advertising; the staging of their own scenes in the studio or outside the studio; diverse interpretations from different perspectives; the rejection of the Romantic idea of creativity and talent; and the turn to flow and movement --becoming---and more organic forms.

It is broader because the pictorial turn in postmodern culture requires us to think in terms of visual culture that includes cinema, television, spectacles such as the Chinese Olympics, advertising as well as comics , graphic novels, and the visual arts. Photography is one "player" in this culture and not the most significant.

I'll pick up--and spin off--- Don's comments in a post on the alftotonet blog.
Dom Ciancibelli 9 years ago
So you agree that there isn't a linear growth but more as mentioned above?

"The photographic movement is more like spokes on a bike wheel with the center being the break from the formal modernist ideals and the spokes being the various directions artists have pursued this break. But it is all part of the same thing; just explored in a different way."
thoughtfactory PRO Posted 9 years ago. Edited by thoughtfactory (member) 9 years ago
yes---only I'd think of the movement more in terms of flows than the spokes of a wheel. The wheel is a mechanical image and so belongs to the modernism tradition. The movement is a flight, a speeding away from the ground of modernism.

What is crucial is mapping the different flows/spokes/lines of flight of postmodern art photography in the form of semiotic assemblages.

Where did linkwise make the initial comments?
casually, krystina PRO Posted 9 years ago. Edited by casually, krystina (admin) 9 years ago
he made it in our magazine group...he was deliberately being provocative...he actually loves this group and a lot of the works here.

I like your concept of 'flow'....that's how I see it too.
I have a book on contgemporary photography that tries to put some kind of loose framework to the various strands within current art practice.

Hopefully, I'll find the time to summarise some of it in the near future.
I'm away for the w/ it'll have to wait until next week.

Really important discussion this. Thanks, Dom!
Dom Ciancibelli 9 years ago
Always scratching my head Krystina! Have a great weekend!
linkwize Posted 9 years ago. Edited by linkwize (admin) 9 years ago
Dom, you have started something here that I am keen to join. If you don't mind, I'd like to take it in little chunks, or installments.

Firstly, the statement that "Photography was born into the era of Modernism" is a bit of an understatement (though - be warned! - the way we start to throw 'isms' around here is fraught with difficulty). There is key sociology of science opinion that asserts "we have never been modern" (Latour).

Scientists, architects and artists all understand the term 'modern' quite differently (I think the term was invented by the architects). This ambiguity and confusion just gets worse the more post-hyphens you add.

I personally believe those who say we can see evidence of post-post-modernism and other new rhizome-like conglomerations striking out all over the place - someone said 'flows'.

Certainly, it has been some years now since WJ Mitchell pronounced that from the moment of its sesquicentential photography was dead! or at least permanently displaced just as painting had been by photography 150 years before.

In art historical terms, photography begat (in other words, caused the ideological crisis that became) modernism!

What Mitchell was saying was that new media (digital) technologies have already turned photography into something entirely different from what it was in its chemical, laboratory-bound incarnation. Thus we are already in a post-photographic era!

To be honest, this is what fascinates me about this further current moment in technological archaeology - where people like you and me can talk about film-related issues asynchronously, online via a social medium that also enables us to exchange pictures with millions of other people all over the world that perhaps we captured digitally only seconds ago. This moment will not last. Because film is definitely OLD technology and archeologically unstable already - thats not to say that digital stuff isn't - but that's another argument and further reason for having to take this whole discussion in little chunks.

There is one sure-fire marker of modernism. If it was 'shot' on film, it defintely belongs in the modern era. These days, don't we prefer the pc term 'captured'? This discussion will hopefully continue...

Further, I believe we cannot separate from this discussion about photo-based art, the technological and the sociological .. these are surely essential aspects of what makes art?

From what I have said here already, it should be obvious that the last article you cited above makes the most sense to me. The author takes account of the rhizomic nature of networked interaction, using terms like 'viral' to explain the way that the concepts, semiotics and just plain visual matter of images is transmitted in our contemporary context.

But for me this is not symptomatic of post-modernism. It is something (hopefully) beyond modernism altogether.
thoughtfactory PRO Posted 9 years ago. Edited by thoughtfactory (member) 9 years ago
casually, krystina---I would argue that 'flows' ('flux', 'becoming') takes us into postmodernism. So we move from stand alone objects to aggregates, or multiplicities, of flows. Thus haphazart! Contemporary Abstracts could be understood as a multiplicity of flows (of images), as opposed to a group with a fixed identity.
thoughtfactory PRO Posted 9 years ago. Edited by thoughtfactory (member) 9 years ago
linkwise-- in Dom's second linked article--the review of Trace and Transformation: American Criticism of Photography in the Modernist Period. a good point is made. At the very end it says that the ideals and institutions of photography as an autonomous discipline with distinct boundaries - the condition so beloved by modernists - have been questioned by postmodernists.

Postmodernism has dumped the modernists definition of "photography." From that perspective the majority of pictures on haphazart! Contemporary Abstracts are within the modernist tradition. Are some of the pictures herein questioning abstract modernism from within that tradition? Or are they primarily affirmative of that tradition.
linkwize Posted 9 years ago. Edited by linkwize (admin) 9 years ago
Saying that photography begat modernism in art is obviously simplistic. There was 'modern thinking' in the time of da Vinci and, it has been convincingly argued that 'photographic thinking' long anticpated the perfection of the technology itself (Batchen). When photographic technology was unleashed it was immediately put to a variety of uses - including artmaking. While the establishment of the 'hi-art' collectors' market for photography didn't take hold until after photography was pronounced dead (typical) this doesn't mean that artistic exploration of the medium itself didn't take place right from the year dot (and indeed may have been responsible for its inception).

The silent protagonist in the development of modern art is the photograph. However as an art form in itself the medium is quite vocal. And the evidence is there for the interpretation and the analysis. The trouble is that as with all history the stories are open to domination and subject to political and economic imperialism. Barthes called this process myth-making. Here I have to declare I have led a sheltered (antipodean) life and the examples I consider to reflect modernism and it's posts are not necessarily those being discussed in texts such as those uncovered by Dom in his intro. Like Gary (poodly) said recently in his image stream discussion, "I'm interested in exploring the possibilities of an alternative abstract tradition----a far more humble one--- to the heroic modernist one of the avant garde. Photography offers a good way to do that." In discussing what post-modernism was, we will always run the risk of singling out examples and thereby artificially raising their status, which is ironically against the kind of egalitarian inter-textualism and pictorial cross-referencing that was part of post-modernism (or at least the aspects of it that interest me). I never think of post-modernism as a movement but as what was just going on all around.

Having said that, for me, the late 70s and early 80s was a time when people were reacting to the uncontrollable barrage of images that came with living in a free market, consumption-driven society (itself a product of modernism in the broadest sense). I was interested in those artists who rejected the preciousness of the single masterful image (as an art object or fetish). There were many who began to work with multiple and series images in a new way. Duane Michals, Tracey Moffat, David Hockney, are some who come to mind who are not already mentioned above. There were some who used photography to investigate photography. One fellow, Lew Thomas, presented a diptych. On one side was a blurred (b/w) picture taken with a Nikon in mid flight (tossthecam - eat your heart out!) and next to it was an image of the guy throwing the camera in the air. This had a big influence at the time and, still epitomises a certain aspect of post-modern photography for me.
linkwize Posted 9 years ago. Edited by linkwize (admin) 9 years ago
Semiotics is a general cultural theory of signs and symbols. Though it had a historical basis in literature, some of the ideas became associated also with visual meaning and so have relevance in a discussion of the abstract in photography.

It may be interesting to some that the European philosopher arguably most popularly asssociated with post-modern semiotic thought was himself a keen photographer.

Tied in with his post-Marxist critique of consumer society, Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007) hypothesised that late-capitalist society, divorced from the politics of actual need, became unhooked from reality.

His version of what is known as the semiotic chain of representation is:
imitation = reflection of basic reality
production = masks or perverts a basic reality
simulation = masks the absence of a basic reality
simulacrum = bears no relation to any reality whatsoever

There are some arguable equivalences between terminology of various semiotic theorists:
indexical = denotation = direct connection = imitation
iconic = connotation = likeness = production
symbolic = myth = ideological = simulation
floating = empty signification = hyperreal = simulacrum

Perhaps what some of us aim for in our contemporary abstract photography is the latter - floating meaning?

In a very real sense the philosophy of signs has extinguished itself in Baudrillard’s discovery that if we treat representations of the world as signs only, then we can end up with a self referential system of infinite reflections, as in parallel opposing mirrors.

At various times Baudrillard returned to the craft of photography and documented this rediscovery almost as if it were an antidote to the nihilistic angst that his philosophical writings have created.

If such images had been posted to the haphazart! pool, they would have fitted in quite well. Do you think so?
Eugene Goodale 9 years ago
I've just read everything here a couple of times, some portions more. My first reaction is to feel stupid because, while I understand some of the ideas here, I really don't understand this conversation as a whole.

Are you trying to decide which is better modernism or postmodernism? Are you trying to define postmodernism?

Does this help you understand your place in the grand scheme of the history of photography?

Does it help make better photos or help you comunicate your ideas through photography?

linkwize Posted 9 years ago. Edited by linkwize (admin) 9 years ago
Good questions, Gene.

The discussion here does not necessarily reflect the preoccupation of the group. Indeed, many have expressed elsewhere that they are happy to let pix speak for themselves.

However, I think the discussion arose out of Dom's sense of trepidation at embarking on a new line of work that might not quite fit the norms of abstract that this group regularly accepts. (See I could be totally wrong on this, so don't take my word for it.

So yes, in answer to Dom's question at the title of the thread, there is some attempt to define post-modern photography.

As to your other qualitative questions - I don't think it really helps anything.

From time-to-time the more verbal of us - who suffer also from navel gazing - seek some release. Its our soapbox and we'll stand on it if we want to! If we can get enough Guinness or whatever into us first...

Dom Ciancibelli 9 years ago
Ashley, I don't believe it was stated that photography begat modernism. The reference is in the second link from my original post:
"photography's aspirations to legitimacy as an art form have been so firmly hitched to the wagon of modernism, that proponents of both the medium and the movement are almost hysterically attached to each other; much more so in modernism's relationship to photography than to any other medium."

Painters of the time (beginnings of photography) were intimidated by the new medium and felt threatened that painting had met it's demise. I believe some writings actually stated at the time of photography's appearance that painting WAS dead. How many times have we heard that!

RossinaBossioB is an art student in France having to write her first artist's statement. She notes in a discussion:
"Here's the case: Imagine you have to be approved by a group of hard ass French juries who love installations, videos and consider painting a thing from the past; you have to sound like a contemporary artist and you have to explain shortly *your* work, using preferably a conceptually constructed discourse...."
Her instructors are probably all X-gens and couldn't draw a crooked line or paint their way out of brown paper bag. They also have declared that painting is dead.
The discussion at Thinking About Art:

What I see happening with the advent of photography investigating itself (Cindy Sherman, Thomas Ruff), the new topographists (Robert Adams), and post modern photography is the abandonment of not only photography but all the visual arts since the first cave drawings.

As most of us knew it (those over 40) art was something that was also crafted by its maker. Sculpture has turned to video installations, painting has turned to writings in some notebook about the theory of painting and photography has turned to digital point-and-shoot instruments which double as networking devices, telephones, digital motion capture and cruising the internet. The craft of making art is all but disappeared in the post modern world. And I agree that Baudrillard's work looks like most of the images on Flickr. Unidentifiable as to who made them. A message indiscernible as to what they imply and why they exist. Most never never leave cyberspace or the hard drive. Do they actually exist as anything other than binary code? Please, someone send me the manuscript.

And a case of Old Frothingslosh is headed our way!
linkwize Posted 9 years ago. Edited by linkwize (admin) 9 years ago
Sorry Dom, it was me who said "photography begat modernism". For the record, I also agree with the catch 22 expressed in the citation in the 1st para of your most recent post.

Re Baudrillard's pix. One thing in his favour - he was making those, at least, 8 years ago now.

There is much truth in your last major para. But, maybe this reflects the changing nature of craft and not necessarily its absence. My father always said I wouldn't be an artist because I could not draw (at least not with his draughtsman-like skill) - he was probably right - but not for the resons he thought.

When I was at art school (in 1778) some of us erroneously scoffed at the introduction of video into film-making on aesthetic & 'quality' grounds but we overlooked it would require a new aesthetic and new skills.
Dom Ciancibelli 9 years ago
Re Baudrillard's pix.... must have been even more confusing then! :-)
Remembering years ago the first time I fell upon William Eggleston's refrigerator interior. Thought it was some sort of hoax until I caught up with his work thru the DVD "William Eggleston in the Real World." His stuff is still crap and he can hardly be called a proper photographer but at least I understand his work better!

Draughtsman-like skill is better left to the academics and illustrators. Used to be you needed both that skill and creativity. When in art school I knew many wit the skill but the went on to be draughtsman for General Motors sculpting bumpers and door handles. We in the fine arts department considered the illustrators and designers prostitutes. Selling their skills for money. Alas they made a living at it while we in the fine arts all took jobs driving taxies and collecting garbage. Was the joke on us?

1778? I didn't know they had either film or video then! :-) You were way ahead of your time. And I still personally still prefer the look of film. Must have something to do with that grain! :-) Just my analog mentality!

Speaking of analog mentality I find it funny I must admit that I do embrace technology to the extent that I don't have to work with the caustic chemicals at the post-processing end of things. And Flickr allows me to upload instead of sending an envelop with pic in it! :-)

You do have my curiosity up mentioning "Perhaps what some of us aim for in our contemporary abstract photography is the latter - floating meaning?" I wonder if you could expand on this a bit?
thoughtfactory PRO Posted 9 years ago. Edited by thoughtfactory (member) 9 years ago
EFGoodal----writing about art photography has its own autonomy. conventions and creativity. Reading it doesn't mean that we become better at the craft of photography, but it can help is become more informed about the process of our photographic practice.

An example is whether that practice repeats the conventions of heroic abstract modernist tradition or whether it questions them and so enables the abstract tradition to develop and change. That self-reflexivity,which is part of the modernist tradition, then helps to give more depth to your visual story or narrative.
thoughtfactory PRO Posted 9 years ago. Edited by thoughtfactory (member) 9 years ago
you say above that "photography investigating itself (Cindy Sherman, Thomas Ruff), the new topographists (Robert Adams), and post modern photography is the abandonment of not only photography but all the visual arts since the first cave drawings."

I'm puzzled. How does photography investigating itself [its traditions and conventions, genres, theories etc ] cause the abandonment of not only photography, but all the visual arts circulating though the various nodal points in the various networks of the art institution

Photography is booming despite all the critical discourse about photography.
Dom Ciancibelli 9 years ago
Poodly - If you study the works of those who embrace the post modern avenue in photography you will find that their concerns have little to do with the image or visual language itself. They become illustrated byproducts of their own sociological obsessions. Robert Adams is, what we refer to in my part of the country, the Pacific Northwest, a tree hugger. The best way to illustrate his tears of lament over the loss of the old growth forests is to visit clear cuts in Oregon. He is a hypocrite to the highest degree. And that pisses me off more than the attention his amateurish photographs receive that circulate the museums and galleries. He illustrates his obsession with the loss of pristine nature yet he lives in a wood house paneled in old growth fir and walks on floors of wood that came from these forests pulled along the Columbia by wooden barges. He reminds me of an acquaintance who is a devout vegan who wears leather shoes and a leather belt who drives an automobile with leather seats. You get my drift.

So not only does Adams self admittedly have little skill or interest in the camera itself but also never produces his own finished prints. I guess he sends them out to Walmart or some other pharmacy for printing and development only to illustrate his post modern philosophy. All of this has nothing to do with developing a visual language or furthering the art of photography.

I've studied the post modern movement in photography to some depth and can truly say that, of those I've studied, none are interested in anything photographic except as some illustration for ideas that are of no photographic concern.

I could go on for days with illustrations like the one above on Adams. Essentially what I see of the post modern movement is nothing more than philosophical meanderings and questioning with no end product that furthers any visual art unless the artist comes equipped with the manuel. The visual part of the language is gone to the degree that few understand what they are being confronted by when viewing these kinds of works in either museums, galleries or on our beloved virtual computer screens.

A further note: I wouldn't judge, for the most part, that all you see on sites like Flickr are an indication the the art of photography is flourishing. Certainly the use of digital image making devices are showing their popularity here.
Michael Lusk... 9 years ago
Interesting dialogues here...Cindy Sherman, Thomas Ruff and Robert Adams I found to have nothing more than LAME images, LAME being my term for Lacking Artistic Merit Entirely, snapshots of poor to mediocre quality and to say "few understand what they are being confronted by when viewing these kinds of works in either museums, galleries..." is an understatement, exhibits of their images is as much of an assault as a confrontation...their work for me doesn't further the art of photography but just the opposite...and what you see on flickr only indicates the increased use of digital devices to capture images...snapshots flourish...

and you don't want to know what I think of terms like semiotic assemblages and rhizomic nature of networked interactions...

"Are you trying to decide which is better modernism or postmodernism? Are you trying to define postmodernism?"...labels...put a dress on a pig, it's still a pig...

"reiterations and regurgitations of visual issues"...I accept the fact that what I shoot is one of the above...I don't give a shit...and I don't shoot images with any preconcieved notion of who I may be imitating...I like it...I shoot it...that simple...
Eugene Goodale 9 years ago

Not to change the subject but, I am a fan of Robert Adams. Not neccessarily his tree hugging/environmental philosophies (or hypocrisies as you call them). It's more because I don't usually pay much attention to an artist's politics that I am able to separate the man from the artist.

His book Cottonwoods is a stunningly beautiful essay on the landscape of the Cottonwood trees, and quite firmly grounded in modernism - he can be downright romantic at times. Summer Nights is a gorgeous book of nocturnal photos. His early work (the New Topographers movement) to me seemed impersonal and his style has grown warmer and more accessible with time. His prints are beautiful and well made. (Lots of photographers don't make their own prints).

His book Beauty in Photography will clearly show you where he fits regarding the postmodern ideas.

Dom Ciancibelli 9 years ago
Well I just may stand corrected Gene. I respect your opinion and I'll have to search out his turn of events for myself. I saw, just a few years ago, a very large show of his work at Lewis and Clark College at the Hoffman Gallery in Portland and it left me flat and depressed. Just about a year ago I watched the video "Art 21: Art in the Twenty-First Century: Season 4" and was under-whelmed by his work and his political views. Maybe he's mellowed over time.

Correct me if I'm wrong but I would consider the "New Topography" movement securely embedded in post modern tradition. Baltz with the empty parking lots and interior shots of uncompleted drywall, Frank Gohlke and Steven Shore's deadpan images of empty streets and alleys that leave you feeling like you got up from the movie to get a bag of popcorn and returned knowing you must have missed the most important part of the movie.

A couple of years ago I visited the Oregon Biennial and had to purchase the catalog just to try and understand what it was that I had just viewed. After hours of reading artist's statements I still only understood half of what I saw. The art speak was so thick I had to get out the dictionary for much of it.

Another topic that arose from my above inquiries was that of the singular image. I take that to mean that many of these post modern photographers don't work in a linear fashion. This is something that is difficult for me to understand since my own work builds upon what I've done before. It gives the impression that art has taken on a kind schizophrenic direction.

I enjoy visiting streams on Flickr where I can follow development of a photographer's work in a linear fashion but most of the images that pop up daily are so "all over the place" that I have a hard time understanding what each photographer is trying to achieve. Might it be the new course reflecting that of today's society with the indulgence of multitasking? Doing a whole lot of "stuff" but not putting out much of anything with any depth or meaning.

Still scratching my head! :-)
Leonie Polah PRO 9 years ago
I think you cannot compare an artist exhibition(or book) to the work here on flickr. Not because the work on flickr would be better or worse, but simply because an exhibition (or book) is a selection of a selection the artist (or curator) makes over the years and months.

The images shown on flickr are very new, and sometimes the artist has made a rough - for the time being - selection. Indeed you can follow an artist's development, but also the sidetracks any artist will take at times.

I suppose that's why somehow I would compare flickr more to an international artschool, than to an exhibition ground.

As for the statement: Art is either revolution or plagiarism: total nonsense to me.
thoughtfactory PRO Posted 9 years ago. Edited by thoughtfactory (member) 9 years ago
finsmail--just trying to explore the idea, or possibility of, a poetics of postmodernism as a photographic practice. One that works in the spaces opened up by the dissolving of modernist boundaries.
linkwize Posted 9 years ago. Edited by linkwize (admin) 9 years ago
Obviously this topic is huge - indeed a Pandora's box - and best ingested in tiny little chunks like I thought at the start. Don't expect instant answers.

I wanted to further interrogate Mikee on his emphasised insistence on the metaphor of American gun politcs with relation to photographics - was this a response to Baudrillard (murder of the image)?

But I also wanted to answer Dom: You do have my curiosity up mentioning "Perhaps what some of us aim for in our contemporary abstract photography is the latter - floating meaning?" I wonder if you could expand on this a bit? (but haven't had time yet).

Poodly needs to be taken to task and Gene is clearly involved... (help! Krys!) And its great to see Leonie weighing in...

We obviously need help...
Eugene Goodale Posted 9 years ago. Edited by Eugene Goodale (admin) 9 years ago
Dom (and anyone else who wants to listen),

In general you are correct about the NT group. After Adam's book New West he seemed, to me, to walk the line.

I could be wrong also, after all he seems to always be referenced when folks discuss Photography's postmodernism. I'm discussing him in terms of how I feel when I see his work. His political/environmental stance something I don't really pay attention to anymore.

I have a difficult time buying into most discussions of modernism/postmodernism because I don't believe that artists look at it as you are one or the other.

Simplified (again - to me) postmodernism is more along the line of "question everything" and having some sort of socio/political ax to grind and all but the most politically embedded folks still are interested in light, composition and the way things look and the way one feels when confronted with the subject or when they are photographed.

I take each work of art/photo/sculpture individually and try to be open to the artist's ideas as I see them in the work of art. You know the old idea about walking into a gallery and having no knowledge of the artist and being moved by a work of art.

The older I get the more I like the idea expressed Finsmal's statement "...I like it...I shoot it...that simple..."

Dom Ciancibelli Posted 9 years ago. Edited by Dom Ciancibelli (member) 9 years ago
Gene..... my problem (emphasis on "my") is that up until the last 15 or twenty years I've had no problem with finding some immediate connection with the visual arts. I could walk into a gallery or museum and be embraced by most of the work I found there and study the work and the artist more in depth at my leisure. But at some point there was a major disconnection for me. And one of those major disconnections was Robert Adams work. I find that I am disconnected more than ever these days and write it off as a major lack of understanding of the most modern of art. And this is true especially for art photography.

There are two galleries in Portland next door to each other. One shows Siskind, Kenna, Brandt, Wiese and Chiarenza. The other gallery is Blue Sky owned by Chris Rauschenberg, son of Robert, that shows work that is, for me, completely incomprehensible. I need to go to lectures by the artist you listen to the manifesto to gain comprehension. I don't believe that for an informed viewer that this should be the case. The visual arts are just that.... visual. If they don't relate on some visual level to the viewer they should be put into a category of something like philosophy to read to be understood.

Post modernism has been great for bashing modernist photographic works as nothing more than pretty pictures. Art for art's sake. This is where I strongly disagree with that philosophy.

Leonie..... firstly the title above "Art is either revolution or plagiarism." is not mine but taken from a post modern manifesto. And I really don't try and compare the works on Flickr to an exhibition from a mature artist unless the photographer/artist purports it to be such. Then I judge the work on a different level. I realize that Flickr, in some instances, is a sounding board and a place for the exchange of ideas. For me it's a place for networking thru the use of discussions such as these. But the singular image is a recurring idea in many of the works set in the post modern landscape. It's the nature of the work. A single illustration for the idea which is all important to the post modern aesthetic.
An exmple: Joseph Kosuth
Eugene Goodale 9 years ago

I think I can agree with you just about 100% but still hold my appreciation for Adam's work. Sometime it is just a matter of taste or just relating to a particular artist. I think you can tell from my posts that I have a problem with the whole postmodern way of thinking. I have a great deal of respect for your opinions Dom - enough to make me get out my Robert Adams books last night and reflect upon my own beliefs regarding his work. If this thread did nothing else but this it was worth reading and contributing to.

Boston (as well as other parts of the country) is having its own postmodern controversy with Shepard Fairey:

He's the guy responsible for the Obama poster and in my opinion representative of all that is wrong about the postmodern philosophy towards art.
thoughtfactory PRO 9 years ago

I'm not sure what the objection to Shepard Fairy's work is. Is it because it is street art? Or is sit decorative style of the murals? Nor do I see the connection between his portrait of Obama and all that is wrong with the postmodern philosophy of art.

You will need to spell out the connections for me.
thoughtfactory PRO Posted 9 years ago. Edited by thoughtfactory (member) 9 years ago
I see that you reference Joseph Kosuth's Art After Philosophy and After: Collected Writing, 1966-1990. This conceptual artist is a philosophically literate artist, and he was one of the few artists working in the sixties and seventies who had the resources to undertake a philosophical analysis of the general nature of art.

The rationale for this kind of philosophical reflection is Greenberg's identification of a certain local style of abstraction with the philosophical truth of art. Modernism--US, Greenberg version --- did its utmost to repress all the possibilities of the historical avant garde (eg., surrealism) because it not fit the formalist frame of the work itself--- the work of art is to be defined in formalist terms shape, surface, pigment, and the like as defining painting in its purity.

Kosuth defines art as ideally being entirely separate from the world, and this is very modernist in its understanding, notwthstanding all his criticisms of modernism That definition is at odds with the emphasis placed on the intense effects of a picture on the body of the viewer.

What happened with postmodernism is that there is no a priori constraint on how works of art must look--they can look like anything at all. This is what finished the modernist agenda.
Eugene Goodale 9 years ago
No it's because he takes on the persona of some revolutionary artist who came from the streets, appropriates images and spaces to put his art and when he gets caught brings on his lawyers to bail him out. I find his art empty to the point of boredom and I think he deliberately fills his images full of appropriated pictures and slogans, that appeal to the hipsters, (Che, obey, etc) to cover up the fact that there's nothing there. It's silly art. The taggers of Boston would beat the shit out of him if he tried to put his stuff up where they work. When they get caught they go to jail, pay fines, get put on probation and truly take a risk. He's a poser.

The correlation between him and post modernism is that the critics and curators that promote him can only speak in the "art-speak" jargon that confuses and intimidates people that want to enjoy art. Much the way the proponents of postmodernism do. They tell us why he's important, but when we stand before his pictures we wonder what they are talking about.

This is all just my opinion, of course.

thoughtfactory PRO Posted 9 years ago. Edited by thoughtfactory (member) 9 years ago
EFGoodale, Dom, linkwize
there seems to be a tacit hostility to what is called "artspeak" in this discussion, as if there is something wrong for philosophy to reflect on art. That artspeak----which is being carried on by those in the discussion--- is then equated with postmodernism. In the process there is little acknowledge of the big differences, debates and arguments within philosophy's reflection on art since the 1970s.

One interpretation of the artist's negative reaction to modernism---that of Arthur Danto ----holds that art invites us to intellectual consideration, and that this is not for the purpose of creating art again, but for knowing philosophically what art is. He observes that the philosophical question of the nature of art was something that arose within contemporary art (ie., the 1970s) when artists pressed against boundary after boundary, and found that the boundaries all gave way.

So we can separate the reflection on art--eg., Kosuth and Danto--- from the postmodern reflection on art. the latter is one perspective in the history of debates. My interpretation of the discussion is that members of the haphazart! Contemporary Abstracts group are hostile to postmodernism because it challenges and rejects a lot of modernist assumptions about art that this group holds dear.
Eugene Goodale 9 years ago

I apologize if I appear hostile towards discussion about art.


"Post-modernism is arguably the most depressing philosophy ever to spring from the western mind. It is difficult to talk about post-modernism because nobody really understands it. It’s allusive to the point of being impossible to articulate. But what this philosophy basically says is that we’ve reached an endpoint in human history. That the modernist tradition of progress and ceaseless extension of the frontiers of innovation are now dead. Originality is dead. The avant-garde artistic tradition is dead. All religions and utopian visions are dead and resistance to the status quo is impossible because revolution too is now dead. Like it or not, we humans are stuck in a permanent crisis of meaning, a dark room from which we can never escape."
(Kalle Lasn & Bruce Grierson, A Malignant Sadness)
The quote above expresses all that is repugnant to me about post-modernist philosophy. It is a philosophy of capitulation and despair which essentially declares that there can be no objective cognition of reality and that all points of view are equally valid. The great advances for humanity contained in the modernist tradition are derided as white, male, western etc ad nauseum and we are left not with a history and art of humanity but with a history and art of race/gender/subculture in which any universal, or unifying, content is denied.

i long ago ceased to regard the likes of Barthes as having ANYTHING of value to say about humanity or art.
Dom Ciancibelli 9 years ago
Gary - To touch on a few points made:

1. "What happened with postmodernism is that there is no a priori constraint on how works of art must look--they can look like anything at all. This is what finished the modernist agenda."

So now everything is art because we can't recognize the difference between what art is and the commodities on the grocery shelves in our supermarket or the the snapshot of aunt Emma. I personally feel that this is a philosophical cop-out for those who want to be considered an artist but really are unable to make art except for the art speak.

2. For me art speak is the byproduct of and is equated with PM.

3. Speaking only for myself I am hostile to any philosophy that negates everything that came before "it." "It" doesn't just challenge modernism but rejects all it's assumptions. Of course I embrace modernism. It's what I grew up with and the philosophy under which I've worked all of my art life. Call me a diehard! For me PM talks and thinks too much and produces too little. I don't enjoy it's look or smell or attitude. And most of all I can't relate to it.
Dom Ciancibelli 9 years ago
Here are some examples of what I spoke to when mentioning Robert Adams work. Many of the prints linked to are what I viewed in his show of a couple of years ago.

Robert Adams is a quintessential example of the New Topographics school that was prominent in the 70s (see also the Bechers, Shore, Gohlke, Baltz, etc).  The influences of its idea/aesthetic/sensibility remain apparent in photography today.  (One needs to only replace random lonely inanimate landscapes with random lonely people.)  On the other hand, another common theme on top of subject matter for the New Topographics was an absolute mastery and control of the black and white medium, which is something altogether rare today.  Not non-existent, but certainly not easily found.  Anyhow, even if this work Adams did in the West now seems un-extraordinary in it’s visual commonplace-ness today, there’s still much to be had from it I think.

From Masters of Photography:

I can't say that I agree with the authors assumption that.....
"an absolute mastery and control of the black and white medium, which is something altogether rare today."
I feel the author is way off base with this comment!
Michael Lusk... Posted 9 years ago. Edited by Michael Lusk... (admin) 9 years ago
Masters of Photography ??? include Adams and Sherman is quite a joke !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!...and degrading to those who rightfully are included...the Adams work is not even good quality B&W, much less art...LAME to the max !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! my opinion...
Eugene Goodale 9 years ago

I'm pretty certain I won't be able to change your mind about Adams. However, the first photo is one of my favorites from New West. It looks rather drab here. I will also say that every print I've seen of his has been pristine, especially the Cottonwood photos I mentioned earlier.

The other "New Topographers" don't really interest me as a whole but I find images by Shore and Gohlke to be of interest at times.
Gohlke lives in New England I believe and his images are in a lot of the local museums and galleries. There was an issue of Light Works that featured his work that was very good.

The Bechers make obsessive compulsive boring catalogs as far as I'm concerned.

Dom Ciancibelli 9 years ago
Haven't had a chance to check out Adams newer work but will in time. Especially the ones you've mentioned.

Obviously the Masters refers to the guys who make the big bucks, sell the books, have the museum shows etc. maybe more correctly stated The Popular of Photography? Critic's Choice? The Guys Who Get All the Press?
Oh well! :-)

And a guy who I consider a master printer would be Rolf Horn.
Kenna ain't too shabby either. Both used to print for AA.
thoughtfactory PRO Posted 9 years ago. Edited by thoughtfactory (member) 9 years ago
re your comment:
So now everything is art because we can't recognize the difference between what art is and the commodities on the grocery shelves in our supermarket or the snapshot of aunt Emma. I personally feel that this is a philosophical cop-out for those who want to be considered an artist but really are unable to make art except for the art speak.

A couple of points. Firstly, there is a basic difference between a visual representation of the commodities on the grocery shelves in our supermarket (eg., one taken by Andreas Gursky) and the commodities themselves. Who is arguing otherwise? It is the nature of representation that is being debated.

Secondly, there is an argument that says if the snapshot of aunt Emma is included in an exhibition in an art gallery then it is art. Duchamp's urinal showed that. The post modernists question the role of the art gallery in constructing what is art. For the formalist modernists its the form that matters.

The historical situation for modernists was that painting was the core of art, not photography or sculpture. Painting was the key to the internal development of purifying art, which was deemed the goal of historical development of art. So argued Clement Greenberg. The history of art and the history of painting were identical.

Yet the great river of painting ran out of puff after colour field abstraction, and the river became a network of tributaries that lacked any single current. The modernist narrative had collapsed.

So are you claiming that modernist photography is the end of painting, or that it replaces painting as understood by Greenberg? Or that purity in photography is what photography should be?

I interpret your text as desiring to distinguish between a legitimate photographic practice and an illegitimate one--which you call postmodernist. This distinction is defined by modernist criteria.

If so then, this places a lot of the tributaries in the shade and a lot of art photography in these tributaries is overlooked. Contemporary art photography is pluralistic.
casually, krystina PRO 9 years ago
I've been away - sorry to have missed some of this discussion at an earlier point.
I think current practice is a rather wide umbrella. Maybe being in London I do get exposed to a fairly wide range of I get a different sense of what is going on. I have seen a lot of work that completely leaves me cold, but at the same time some stunning works with a lot of thought and depth to it. A couple of practicioners are mentioned below -
e.g. Zarina Bhimji's photographs are poignantly beautiful, as are Simon Norfolks. Gregory Crewdson's are truly impressive works, not just their scale, but tone, composition, subject matter.....even though narrative is not sthg I'm interested in in my own work.

I have found the following publication rather useful.
'The Photograph as Contemporary Art' by Charlotte Cotton (Thames and Hudson) - available in paperback....if you can get it, I can recommend it.

The book tries to give a sense of the 'spectrum of motivations and expressions' that currently exists in the field internationally. In doing so she foregrounds the 'ideas that underpin contemporary art photography and comes up with seven categories and briefly describes the works of photographers that loosely fall into these categories - admitting that some could be listed under several categories. she also points to photographers / events that have been key influences within each category. Practically all of the photographers who are now considered pivotal were not recognized at the time of making their works... the recognition has only come in the last 10-15 years.

I'm not going to be able to summarise the 215 well and clearly written pages (refreshing given the amount of jargon one usually gets)

So - at the risk of being simplistic, I'll just list the categories and maybe at some point say a bit more on one or two that I feel are a bit more relevant to us.

1. Conceptual / performance
- Photographs - where the scene / event has been created by the artist for the sole purpose of creating a photograph as a work of art. -

this type of P has developed out of original attempt to 'document'
performances in the mid 60's and 70's. It played down the importance
of craft and authorship, stressing instead the 'act'
depicted in the P as being of artisitic importance, i.e. artists used P
as a means of conveying ephemeral artistic ideas or actions, thereby subverting conventional ideas of gallery art. 'Art was revealed
as a process of delegation to ordinary and everyday objects.

precedents: Marcel Duchamp, Joseph Beuys
Artists cited as examples:
Philip Lorca diCorcia, Sophie Calle, Zhang HuanHelen van Meene,
George Rousse, Roni Horn, etc.

2. Narrative or tableaux vivant Phototgraphy (P)
P that make reference to fables, fairy tales, events or modern myths
with a narrative loaded into a single frame.

precedence: - figurative painting of the 18- 19th century

examples: Jeff Wall, Philip Lorca diCorcia's 'Hollywood' series, Samn Taylor-Wood, Yinka Shonibare, Hanna Starkey, Sergey Bratkov. Gregory Crewdson, thomas Demand, rut Blees Luxemburg, Desiree Dolron, etc.

3. Deadpan
P - outside the hyperbolic, sentimental and subjective - instead
stress on P as 'a way of seeing beyond the limitations of individual perspective'...offering an 'objective' almost clinical mode of seeing the world - a reaction against the 'neo- expressive' phase in painting popular in the 80's.Often using landscape and architectural subjects.

precedence: German School of 'New Objectivity in painting and photography of the 1920-30's.
Key influences: Bernd and Hiller Becher who were also tutors at the
Kunstakademie in Duesseldorf, Germany. - their students key exponents: e.g. Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, thomas Strutt, candida Hoefer, Axel Huette, simone Nieweg.
Othes incl: Lewis Baltz, Takashi Homma, Ed Burtynsky, Richard Misrach, Bridget Smith, Mathias Hoch, Dan Holdsworth (his long exposure shots of car parks of shopping centres), Boo Moon's and Hiroshi Sugimoto's seascapes, also Sugimoto's theatres and shots of waxwork models, etc.

4. Something and Nothing - subject: the stuff of daily life

P lends a visual charge and imaginative possibilties to quotidian matter beyond its everyday function. This is done via sensual / luscious treatment, shifts in scale / typical environment, juxtapositioning and relationships betw shapes and forms. The iconography incl. objects balanced/stacked, edges / corners of things, abandoned spaces,, rubbish and decay, fugitive or ephemeral forms (snow, condensation, light, etc)

exponents: artists Peter Fischl and David Weiss, Gabriel Orozco, richard Wentworth, Jason Evans, Jennifer Bolande, Jean-Mrc Bustamante, the photos of Wim Wenders, Tracy Baran, Wolfgang Tillman, Uta Barth, Sabine Hornig

5. Photos dealing with Intimate Life
...mostly figurative ...self explanatory.

6. Moments in History - incl. Aftermath Photography
bearing withness to life/ events of the world - images after events / wars/ ecological disasters, etc have taken place, Images showing how places / people have changed / are changing due to forces outside their control
e.g. Zarina Bhimji, Simon Norfolk, Ori Gersht, Fazal Sheikh, Zweletu Mthethwa, Chan Chao, Allan Sekula, Paul Graham, Martin Parr, etc.

7. Revived and Remade
P that examine the medium in terms of its production, dissemination and reception, and engages with its inherent reproducibility, mimicry and falsity.
Influenced by theories of Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault: meaning of an image is not of the author's making or necessarily under his/her control, but is determined only by reference to other images or signs.

and of course: much loathed and villified Cindy Sherman is an exponent of this type of investigation, Aleksandra Mir, Tracy Moffat, John Divola, Thomas Ruff, Tacita Dean, etc.

I hope you'll find this useful...obviously, it is only by looking at example images and reading the analysis that one gets a better sense of all these different strands.

I can see myself in the: Something or Nothing category / sometimes deadpan.
How about you?
thoughtfactory PRO Posted 9 years ago. Edited by thoughtfactory (member) 9 years ago
The above classifications are a description of a pluralistic art photographic world. As interpreted by casually, kyrstina, Cotton's account does not offer an alternative narrative to Greenberg's modernist one. That grand narrative has collapsed. What we have in Cotton's account is a very interesting pluralism.
Eugene Goodale 9 years ago
How many postmodernists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Even the framing of this question makes a grid of patriarchal assumptions that reveals a slavish devotion to phallocentric ideas - such as, technical accomplishment has inherent value, knowledge can be attained and quantities of labor can be determined empirically, all of which makes a discourse which further marginalizes the already disenfranchised.

What’s the difference between a postmodernist and a mafia boss?

The mafia boss makes you an offer you can’t refuse, while a postmodernist makes you an offer you can’t understand.
casually, krystina PRO Posted 9 years ago. Edited by casually, krystina (admin) 9 years ago
poodly - you are right.. she doesn't aim to analyse the difference between modernism and post-modernism, her aim is to provide an overview of current practice - taking into account the kinds of works that are being exhibited in the major / influential galleries around the world.

I think this throws up the question as to whether all works mentioned above could be described as post-modern....
Poodly can you summarize Greenberg's definition of 'modernism' for me?...I have the feeling that many of us have quite different ideas about what it might be..
Personally I associate it with the Bauhaus and deStijl initiatives - although even that can be seen to saw the seeds of post-modernims by the fact that it tried to break down the hierchachies between fine and applied art, ....their commitment to consider architecture, photography, design, paintings all on the same level.

It is tempting to think of modernism and post-modernism as being consequential and quite separate in terms of period/time. but post-modern elements / practice reaches quite far back (e.g. Duchamp) and happened alongside modernist ones. I think this co-existence and feeding off each other continues today.

It's also too easy to simply put all the artists one dislikes into the post-modernist camp, and the ones one likes into the modernist one.
So maybe it would be useful to consider that folk like let's say Sugimoto are as post-modern as Bernd and Hilla Becher.
thoughtfactory PRO Posted 9 years ago. Edited by thoughtfactory (member) 9 years ago
The way that modernism has been construed is crucial.There is a basic difference between European modernism and American modernism and Adorno's account of the former and Greenberg's account of the latter. It is the latter (American modernism and Greenberg's aesthetics) that is in contention. And for good reason.

Greenberg's art historical narrative and aesthetics is at the core of the disputes about artistic modernism since he argued that American modernism (that means painting--eg, abstract expressionism, colour field, hard edged abstraction) was an evolution from the modernism of the European avant garde; an an evolution towards the purity of the medium which is the end point of art. Any other path was a false path that lead to kitsch or novelty (as in novelties sold in stores). The only true road was abstraction---- ie., progress from naturalistic representation to abstraction to purity --- in this art historical narrative.

This grand narrative presupposed a kind of trans-historical essence of art that discloses itself through history. This trans-historical essence of art was then equated with a regional style of a particular period---the monochrome abstract. The implication is that art of any other style is false. So we have all the denunciations of the heretics and art that doesn't matter (eg., postmodernists in this discussion).

There are other characteristics of Greenberg's modernist master narrative: that each art stay within the boundaries of its medium and not usurp the prerogatives of any art or medium; that the evolution of art to purity was to be enacted through painting; the denunciation of parts of the European avant garde---Dada, surrealism--as historically retrograde and outside the pale of history; in 1992 looking back to the 1960s he said that nothing had happened in art for 30 years, and, in looking forward, he just saw decadence.

Is that enough to help sort things out? I don't think that we need to explore Greenberg's neo-Kantian aesthetics. It was premised on the idea that the judgment of beauty was (tacitly) universal and incompatible with interest and practicality. The judgment of beauty (what is good in art) is based on taste and experience of the good eye of the critic, independently of any specific knowledge of the circumstances of production or the tradition to which the art belongs.
casually, krystina PRO Posted 9 years ago. Edited by casually, krystina (admin) 9 years ago
I have to have a proper read of his arguments - it sounds a bit arrogant to me...especially in the light of what avantgardists / European modernists and surrealists tried to great part in reaction / consideration of catastrophic wars.

Greenberg apparently was actively supported by the CIA. So his ideas form part of a wider agenda and need to be seen in light of the US cultural battle with widespread leftist ideas in Europe and elsewhere at the time and as part of its struggle for hegemony in the Cold should be noted that both Communism and Fascism elevated an exaggerated figurative realism. So positing Abstraction as THE superior artform was perhaps seen as a perfect and clear counter to that.

Now with the battle won, it seems realism can rear its head different guises.

I meant to say earlier on, re: Cotton's book and contemporary photography -- my major gripe with what I see in the galleries in Britain, is the almost complete absence of 'abstraction or abstract' photography. I wonder whether this is sthg specific to our region?
thoughtfactory PRO 9 years ago
I've always though that the UK was resistant to abstract modernism--hence the importance of region in considering modernism. There are many modernisms, including an Australian one, where abstraction more or less means contemporary aboriginal art.

I've always thought that Francis Bacon was central to painting in the UK, whilst Bill Brandt was crucial for photography. The latter links back to the European avant garde and surrealism.
Dom Ciancibelli Posted 9 years ago. Edited by Dom Ciancibelli (member) 9 years ago
Breathing a sigh of relief.......... The Rise of Alter-Modern

And this.........
linkwize Posted 9 years ago. Edited by linkwize (admin) 9 years ago
Dom, I respectfully request you just paraprase the most salient about what you think is important to our discussion from what you have found or simply provide the link. This is usual practice. Otherwise it looks like we ourselves have much more to say that what we actually do. (i.e. please don't copy and paste big blocks of text the are not your own writing- just link them.)

Generally in response to what has been a most facsinating run here in hapahazrt!, I would like to add (whilst still biting my tongue on some matters, and otherwise still contemplating other issues) the following:

I must say that I agree with sentiments such as "Post-modernism is arguably the most depressing philosophy ever to spring from the western mind..." This is why I referred to Baudrillards crisis of angst as a hall of parallel mirrors. But there is not really much to understand beyond the philsophical conundrum that arose, as I said, from treating images as signification - essentially an idea that comes from literary analysis (of novels etc) but one that has proven to be less than helpful in the face of the ubiquitous image.

We have moved on since then - and this is why I refer to postmodernism in the past tense. We really are, or should be - over IT. This is not at all to say that Dom's artworks on the topic are irrelivant- indeed they call up discussion that is well overdue.

Poodly has raised (in other another forum) the sociocultural commentary of WTJ Mitchell who asked, "What do Pictures Really Want", but even that response is now 10 years out-of-date! I was at a conference in London in Dec 08 where he was placing much more emphasis in his reading of the current visual vernacular on exactly where we are today - communicating, sharing, re-searching via the NET! Believe it or not we are where it IS happening. This is post-post-modernism AND post-photography. Good work people!

I so much agree with Poodly when he says, "Greenberg's art historical narrative and aesthetics is at the core of the disputes about artistic modernism ..." As an aside ... this relates to so much psuedo comment that I read in relation to abstract images in this and other abstract pools - e.g. "this is so Rothko" - I can't be bothered finding an example because there are so many (but every time I see it I feel physically sick (again apologies to anyone reading this who feels implicated - it does not mean I do not like your images or appreciate your tropes). Excuse me (and again, apologies to Krys because when I visited London we toured a Rothko retrospective at the Tate - and I do not wish her to feel my comments directed at her personally) - but Rothko was working on a totally different scale in a totally different medium in a totally different time! Why is it so relevant for someone in 2009 to imitate this well-revered large-scale canvas artist on the tiny computer screen? I have no answer, just dismay.

We must have knowledge of the history of art to know and understand the importance of what we are doing here and now. But if what we are doing here and now is important, it will be different from those old times. Informed by them, yes. But quite different.

OK I hear some of you already. "We are not trying to be important." My point is that, without even trying, you could be!

Just keep on doing what you are doing folks. And, by the same token, don't rubbish those of us who like to talk about what is (and has been) going down.

Be proud. In all of flickr this is one of the few forums where talk is happening beyond the level of platitude.

(Sorry if you are having to dedicate a whole weekend to just catch up on this discourse - Blame Dom and demandt a 6-pack of Guinness to be sent by way of compensation)
thoughtfactory PRO Posted 9 years ago. Edited by thoughtfactory (member) 9 years ago
Mitchell's text--What do pictures want? is ten years old. But it is still useful, as he is talking about the pictorial turn and contemporary visual culture (not just art photography). His concern is to explore the dialectics of power and desire in our relations with pictures in this culture.

In making the turn from art (Greenberg and the contemporary high modernist October journal) to images and a visual culture he steps away from the old divide between visual art and visual mass culture and he explores the dialectics of power and desire re images in terms of totemism, fetishism and idolatry. He suggests that totemism can be usefully redeployed to explore the power and desire associated with images.

In doing so Mitchell distinguishes between written and visual language, and so steps away from seeing pictures simply as texts which was the model of the poststructuralists.

What he argues is that images:
are capable of introducing new values into the world and thus of threatening old ones. For better and for worse, human beings establish their collective, historical identity by creating around them a second nature composed of images which do not merely reflect the values consciously intended by their makers, but radiate new forms of value formed in the collective, political unconscious of their beholders.

Images stand at the interface of the most fundamental conflicts in our culture.
linkwize 9 years ago
No argument from me ... on this count. I do not doubt the currency of either of the arguments of either of the Mitchells.
linkwize 9 years ago
cK asks, "I can see myself in the: Something or Nothing category / sometimes deadpan. How about you?"

I reckon that I can answer yes! for work that I was producing and exhibiting around 1978-1984. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then...

I do appreciate the categories of analysis proposed by Cotton.

All in all these terms of analysis are best left to the art historians.

Like most here I am into the making. I simply demand of myself a thoughtful and reflective kind of practice that is grounded in an historical, social and philosophical awareness.

However I do maintain that we are - or should be - over post-modernism as a mode of thinking that might productively guide us in the here and now.

By way of analogy, its kind of like trusting that the economic reasoning of the baby boomers is going to get us out of the current global crisis, when we all know that only a carbon-based economy is going to save the world!

Times change. Images suited to the times change too. History may evaluate what in hindsight has become appropriate (according to the context of the world view when that history is written). Otherwise things exist in the realm of production and consumption and are subject to fashion and fad.
Michael Lusk... 9 years ago
Ashley...well said and does your last paragraph above equate to our term "Contemporary " ?
casually, krystina PRO Posted 9 years ago. Edited by casually, krystina (admin) 9 years ago
Dom - Ashley is right, it is rather difficult to follow large sections of a book/site in this discussion stream....ideally give a summary and link, or just the latter.

Interesting to see how differently people 'define' post-modernism - whilst borrowings, references and eclectic or hybrid qualities are key aspects to po-mo (sorry), I assumed that the 'objective / descriptive' elements in visual imagery were also quintessentially po-mo.....but with a difference, instead of formal beauty / integrity ...the stress now being put on 'the ordinary / mundane/ everyday'...the hithterto neglected aspects of realities mirrored back to us. This po-mo strand of image making cultivated by the influential Bernd and Hilla Beches....that seeminlgy dispassionate examination of a feature of reality - neatly and objectively classified, each precisely framed and presented as if in a scientific laboratory.....those 'realist' portraits of Thomas Ruff - referencing passport images but nonetheless highly 'descriptive' - surely they are as much part of the po-mo scene as Cindy Sherman's? - just as Gerhard Richters 'realist' paintings are that 'mimic' photography....again highly descriptive works.

If only strictly conceptual / works are considered as po-mo - than I am afraid we'll be left with a huge amount of visual art / photography / film etc over the last 20 -40 years that yet need explaining.....which is no bad thing, imo. Life as art is always far more fluid than our reasoning. If there is confusion about what exactly po-mo is about, equally it seems people work from very different assumptions of what modernism was about.

Ashley - no aploglies needed. If you had come this week, I'd have taken you to see Rochenko and Popova at the Tate M. I just LOVE that building and am so grateful that someone against enormous opposition managed to salvage the building from demoliton - also before the Tate M - Londoners had rather limited access to seeing modern and contemporary art - it really changed the culture here that is inherently resistant to change. Also, I just thought it a rare opportunity to see Rothko in the flesh so to speak - book reproductions can never do his or other artists' works justice.

I also agree with you that it does seem a somewhat strange and sad state of affairs that so many photographers attracted to abstraction feel the need to produce images that mimic paintings - (I've been guilty of that myself). In some ways this is positive, since despite all the declarations that painting is dead, it demonstrates its staying power.
On the other hand, in the process we ignore or undermine the aspects that are in fact photography's unique strengths.
Leonie Polah PRO 9 years ago
This ocean of words is overwhelming me again. So just some comments.

On Kusuth: Kusuth was – to me – a conceptionalist in the seventies, so ages ago, and I think more revered in the USA then in Europe, and visually not very interesting imho. There have been other conceptual artists, who for me, succeeded better with their signs and symbols. Besides, the artist may want to let the public believe one picture says it all. But who says we have to agree to that. Believe it or not: visual artists are just like other fallible humans (and so are critics)

This leads me to agreeing with krystina: F.i “it is tempting…. Etc”. Modernism and post-modernism aren’t as far apart as it seems in this discussion. Poodly and krystina refer also to this difference in viewing art-streams in USA-Europe. Absolutely agree with that.

On Greenberg: Seems rather simplistic view in spite of many words.

On postmodernisme as a term and in general: It is just a term, and nobody seems to agree on it. Just a word people thought at the time was a way forward from modernisme. But was it forward, is there a linear forwarding in history or art? I think not.
Dom Ciancibelli 9 years ago
Ashley - I'm not going to let you get out of expanding on your statement.....
"Perhaps what some of us aim for in our contemporary abstract photography is the latter - floating meaning?" because I am truly interested in a bit of further explanation.

After all the conversation that has taken place I'm wondering where abstraction fits in the realm of things. Difficult to put a concrete definition to the term but one would think that at this point in time the old modernist notion and practice of "abstraction" would be null and void. Yet here on Flickr it is the most visually used form of expression. Does it even play any kind of significant role in our post post modern state of affairs? Is it still a viable visual language?

Krystina stated "that so many photographers attracted to abstraction feel the need to produce images that mimic paintings - (I've been guilty of that myself). In some ways this is positive, since despite all the declarations that painting is dead, it demonstrates its staying power."

A key word here is "mimic." Siskind produced images that influenced Franz Kline's paintings. Therefore we can conclude that painting to some degree mimics photography. Actually we can trace back to photography's beginning that abstract photographic images preceded abstract expressionist painting with the works of Man Ray and László Moholy-Nagy.

My own photographic work (other than the snapshots) is largely that of a non-objective nature. I prefer that term to abstraction. My influences have come from painting and sculpture but I like to think that instead of mimicking either of those forms it works toward the spirit of what those works were able to produce. I don't know how many photographers actually strive to work within that framework but it was a natural course of events for me. I'm also not drawn to the idea that the work I produce has to be drawn to any po-mo ideology. If it might fit anywhere it would probably sit smack in the middle of the modernist aesthetic. But I'll leave that to the viewer. I really didn't think that my work was redundant but in the larger scheme of things it certainly may be. At this point in time I guess my work can easily fall into the realm of the "pretty picture" although many other art? photographer's pictures are prettier than mine. I don't strive for what is commonly considered beauty i.e. Ansel Adams, Wynn Bullock or any kind of pictorial ethic. Be it as it may it is what it is I suppose.

I'm beginning to understand that when confronted with the envelope of his photographs marked "artist" (by the publisher), the words were scratched out and remarked "photographer!" Can't remember if that was Evans or Adams.

It's all been extremely informational for me! Thanks for the participation!
j neuberger Posted 9 years ago. Edited by j neuberger (admin) 9 years ago
whew! I finally had time to read through all this.

About abstraction: I'm also curious what role it plays in photography and how it can still be fresh. The thing I like most about haphazart abstraction is that most of us don't do "pure abstracts" but find abstract qualities in the structures around us.

Dom: I'm surprised to read that you consider your work non-objective: your most recent series is pictures of shops--the photographs foreground formal qualities over narrative ones--and that's what I love about them, but all your street and concrete photographs are at least semi-representative
and that's what makes the work on this group so interesting. Even our most abstract regulars like Andre/unbearablebrightness and Christian/tossthecam, and at times Mike/finsmal find ways to let us know that their work is taken from the world or of the world.

About post-modernism: in art history, philosophy, literary studies, and elsewhere in critical studies it has been replaced by cognitive science and "neuroaesthetics."
So you thought Derrida was hard to read!!
Start brushing up on your brain science!!

Curiously the work I've read points to the kinds of connectivity that was discussed up above here and by the guy at the Tate in Dom's link.
So it's relevant here on flickr where we are all about connecting as a community over vast spaces and through non-verbal (as well as verbal) means.
In Echo objects and Visual Analogy Stafford is interested in more than how science helps us understand art. She argues that art can help us understand more about how the brain works. To oversimplify: both function by making connections over gaps: electronic pulses leaping over synapses in the brain and, for example, linking disparate or fragmentary images in coherent compositions to produce larger coherent meanings.

Isn't that to some extent what haphazart abstraction is about?
Or is that too abstract ;-) !

casually, krystina PRO Posted 9 years ago. Edited by casually, krystina (admin) 9 years ago
Poodly above points out:
Greenberg's neo-Kantian aesthetics..... was premised on the idea that the judgment of beauty was (tacitly) universal and incompatible with interest and practicality.

This basic and wide spread assumption is one aspect challenged by many artists in the po-mo era, not only by women whose artistic works have largely been written out of history by exactly those who have assumed for themselves 'superior objective judgement' of what should be considered worthy of the label 'fine art', but also by non-Western artists.....hence the idea that 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder' is a key po-mo concept.

Moreover, artists are working in a world in which corporate interests / advertising are continuously appropriating for their commercial purposes what is considered 'beautiful'..not just from paintings in the past but also presentday imagery / photography....i.e. reproductions of paintings on chocolate boxes, tea cups, T-shirts, etc., reproductions of photographs of beautiful flowers, landscapes, sunsets on calenders, postcards, etc. Is it any wonder that artists in our age do not easily embrace mere 'beauty / formalism' but want to look/ consider issues beyond that?

Poodly asked somewhere further above, as to whether contributors to the haphazart pool ever question the formalist tenets of modernist abstraction. Interesting feeling is, that if anything, it seems most are trying to more or less spontaneously capture mundane elements from our everyday surroundings in ways that achieve what might be considered a 'good/satisfying' composition. Beyond that, many of us are also trying to capture a certain mood or spirit, express emotion or lack of it, or bring together incongruous elements that we hope will arrest someone's gaze. A small minority is aware of the works of master photographers / painters etc....and may / or may not be influenced by their works.

Is anyone out there who does much more than that?
casually, krystina PRO 9 years ago
Jay - we posted at more or less the same time.:-)
Looks like it is getting even more complicated, or simple..i.e. all we are doing here is
'making connections over gaps' - I like that.
j neuberger 9 years ago
I really didn't do justice to Stafford's exceptionally interesting and wide ranging work, but yes --the question is what kind of connections and how does that work when we connect primarily visually.

Haphazart is great because we like to talk to each other, but the primary connection is a similarity in visual style and practice
and because whenever we get too serious Mike or Dom brings over a case of Guinness!
Michael Lusk... 9 years ago
Cheers ladies !!!...a little early for me have a Guinness quite yet, maybe later with some bangers or fish & chips :-)
casually, krystina PRO Posted 9 years ago. Edited by casually, krystina (admin) 9 years ago
sorry Mike - the shop's closed:


but all the pubs are open:-)
linkwize 9 years ago
I am, for the sake of sanity, going to close this discussion thread and begin another...
I will start another titled "making connections over gaps" to carry on this most valuable discourse...
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