Artists and graphic designers present printed matter – such as books, posters or magazines – in the digital environment of web-portfolios. There are a few examples of printed matter which pretend they’re physical throughout the web, without ever getting produced or even being published in the “real world”. Thereby the digital presentation of those fictive products is guided by their analogue realizability. Actually there are no limitations to the enactment of fictive printed-products in the net. The exhibition “Print Fiction” wants to encourage artists and graphic designers to ask how utopias of printed matter can look like.
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By assuming a curatorial role as an aspect of his artistic practice, Tillmans dislodges any clear-cut boundary between curator and artist. For instance, curators primarily select which of an artist’s works will be included in a museum exhibition. Whenever Tillmans’s work is shown, he determines the exhibition focus and scope and decides what to include and how. Of course to varying degree curators work with artists on an exhibition’s content just as Tillmans’s decision-making process includes discussion with curators. Yet he retains a great deal of control in this domain by having made curatorial activity fundamental to his practice. Tillmans creates exhibitory contexts with his photographs. Actively engaging in these situations interrupts the imposture of objectivity and disrupts the codes by which many art institutions disseminate art to publics. Tillmans’s belief in his own complex, flexible subjectivity—and the extension of its validity to one and all—inspire his methods, which subtly decenter institutional installation authority and redistribute display.
Identity is irresolute. Self-construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction are vital dimensions of Tillmans’s artistic formation. His practice reflects continually shifting subjectivity, necessitating that design always be new. The artist’s conviction that identity is flexile and unclassifiable, and his concomitant repertoire of display stratagems, make it possible to sustain an active relationship to his history—through his images—and to presentational formations that mediate meaning. As David Deitcher has aptly observed:
Tillmans’s installations, with their elaborate recombination of old and new photographs, demonstrate his belief in the capacity of such networks of images and of meanings to suggest the multivalent complexity of a life… . In these situations Tillmans has found, not just a new and challenging way to work with photographs in the spaces of galleries and museums, but to underscore the depth of his engagement with contingency. By “contingency” I mean the way in which meaning, but also subjectivity, sexuality, gender and identity, are all the unstable and temporary results of dynamic processes at the heart of which is difference.
Each photograph Wolfgang Tillmans takes and prints is part of a collective, which provides a framework for difference and dialogue. An ever-growing community of images is the dynamic repertoire from which various pictorial and symbolic alliances and juxtapositions form, disassemble, and reform in his installations and publications over time. This is not to say that the individual element is unimportant, but that the artist’s conceptual and visual processes expand to making accessible the solidarities that exist concretely as well as ephemerally between photographs. Tillmans’s belief in collectivity is reflected in a multiplicity of images as form, which engages viewers’ subjectivities through multiple points of entry and their navigation of relational dynamics between images. Such configurations encourage active audience engagement and require viewers to identify and project themselves into the visual and ideational world that Tillmans carefully orchestrates. Viewers’ focus is not overdetermined; understanding is not scripted. “The viewer should be encouraged to feel close to their own experiences of situations similar to those that I’ve presented to them in my work. They should enter my work through their own eyes, and their own lives—not through trying to piece together mine.”