photography

The affective tourists: Holly King and Rehab Nazzal

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Half of the Holly King show at Art Mûr is a retrospective. She’s been doing this for 30 years. I’ll confine myself to addressing the new work, though it’s worth noting that while her work has become warmer in hue, it’s also become less romantic in tenor. Made up principally of photos and a few viewing contraptions, A la frontière du mystère features studio created landscapes blown up as large photo prints. Sometimes the backdrops to these images are painted with loose brush work in swirling Sunday painter style as mildly whimsical skies. Sometimes they are enlarged, glossy tourist getaway brochure type images filled with glinting pebbles. In both cases, she places what amounts to still lifes of largely dead plants and the occasional gewgaw in the foreground and in focus. Sometimes these are a bit glittery to play against the background. The few smaller, strictly still lifes against black play this angle more, covering the dark grounding with what looks like a shower of dandruff, or maybe it’s glitter.
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Notes: Cheryl Pagurek and the CBC

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I remember listening to George Steiner hitting a rough patch in one of his flowing sentences on Writers & Company twenty odd years past. After some gentle prodding from the hostess, the crotchety novelist/critic explained how alarmed he was by the extent to which the Canadian cultural and intellectual world had degenerated since the 1980s. It had fallen to the point that it had become a hideous parody, less of itself, than of milquetoast Americans. Much the same could be said of the CBC, which continues to descend to levels of crapulence that should appall the public. Continuing our tour of discursive discards, here is a look at a typically lousy example from our state run media. This might be excused for being a very middle-brow entertainment bit, but this does not distance it from its – and the many articles it weaves in as links – quite overt propagandistic function.

Ottawan Cheryl Pagurek is a state subsidized artist with many connections to the Ideological State Apparatus. Not surprisingly, her new show at the Patrick Mikhail Gallery was selected as a ‘must see’ by Canadian Art.

The gallery advertises the work as follows: (more…)

NB: What is Photography?

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Talbot had already suggested a way of understanding photography which undermined the singular author. Reactions to this tended to fall along the lines of a creative/productive split. In the essay What is Photography? from Civil Imagination: A Political Ontology of Photography, Ariella Azoulay tracks the shifts of this as a photography turned from something operated by people to something operating on them as well (15). The author promotes a political ontology of photography, one which involves the relations between humans and objects (18). Because cameras seem to saturate contemporary spaces, the sense of being, or potentially being, photographed becomes omnipresent. While we may never see the images these cameras produce, the majority of images we do see are seen without their cameras. The photograph could then become a generator of events and encounters where none of the participants holds sovereignty (17). (more…)

Walter Benjamin sells magic beans

soft-construction-with-boiled-beans-premonition-of-civil-war(1)Unlike the Biblical archangel, Marxist archangels prevent man from escaping their paradises. (Nicolás Gómez Dávila)

In Walter Benjamin’s Little History of Photography, he contrasts three kinds of photography: art or creative photography, fairground ‘huckster’ photography and industrial photography. The middle form he largely abandons to set up a tidy duality. He speculates that the return of the former in the early twentieth century may be linked to a capitalist crisis (507) and equates it with ‘philistine’ (508) conceptions of art. Benjamin suggests that the philistine reacts in abject terror when technology is posed to erode their romantic conception of genius. He then recasts the photographer in the equally romantic role of the ‘overturner’ of art-fetishism who could unleash unanticipated effects. (more…)