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Antitillmansism (partial) | by joeclark
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Antitillmansism (partial)

Photo (somewhat pleasingly distorted from the printed page) of Richie Hawtin by Wolfgang Tillmans in Wolfgang Tillmans by Julie Ault et al.


I saw this and I thought: He looks familiar. I had to check the cutline to get the name. Hawtin is famous for living in Windsor despite his global semistardom, and we see what kind of advantages that has – among other things, you get to be photographed by a gay German in your house (or your mom's, or that of some family friend of a certain age). Bald, skinny, inked, hipsterish, mobyish Richie Hawtin takes a teetering seat on a cabinet, an uncomfortable emissary of the late 20th century. The photo stands in for Hawtin's entire Windsor existence.


So: Lots of context here, something you don't get from Tillmans, whose dead and uninteresting photos look good only in black on pink in the pages of Butt ("fantastic magazine for homosexuals"). Great shot of NONGAY QUEER POPSTAR FROM R.E.M. Michael Stipe answering the phone in his open dressing gown and boxer shorts. Great, really. But tillmansism, like the related slavamogutinism, isn't really an æsthetic. They're blank, ugly, threadbare photos of blank, ugly, underfed people. Or of just one thing against a monotone background. It's even worse when art intellectuals try to dress it up, as they do in the aforecited book. There's nothing to dress up.


It's OK to take intentionally or unintentionally artless grab shots. That's what Flickr and digicams are for. (More shots about buildings and food.) Photos don't have to be great to be good. They do, however, have to be good to be good.


Maybe it is no coïncidence that the only other tillmansism I really like is his photo of Tony Blair. It seems he needs to photograph people who are already somebodies for the whole thing to work.



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Taken on January 20, 2007