Paddy Johnson: What Discussion Actually Looks Like at Frieze


Yesterday Frieze hosted a panel dubbed “Expanding Museums”, which claimed to explore the “current and future roles of contemporary art institutions. Given the role the internet now has in our lives there should be a lot to discuss on that topic — how can museums represent and preserve this emerging culture being just one example — but that, nor any other number of reasonable topics never got discussed.  Instead, Glenn Lowry,  Director of the MoMA,  Adam D. Weinberg, Director of the Whitney, and Sheena Wagstaff, Chairman of the Modern and Contemporary Art Department at the Metropolitan Museum offered a full spectrum of PR for their museums, focusing primarily on the various buildings they’re each renovating.

That’s not a discussion, and if they weren’t prepared to have one, they shouldn’t have been invited. …

Frieze Magazine | The Power of One

The wonderful thing about belief is how uncritical it is of its surroundings. Take amulets, for example. These can be man-made (coins, dominoes, glass beads) or naturally occurring (fossils, shark teeth, mole paws), but in general an amulet’s physical attributes are worth much less than the faith placed in them. 

Amulets can be held for an almost infinite number of reasons: for good luck or for love’s satisfaction; for protection against disease or for defence against malignant personalities; for wind or to safeguard against storms. However, all amulets have one salient characteristic: they’ve got to be able to fit in your pocket. For although amulets communicate with forces beyond our ken, their range is limited. They must be carried close to the flesh in order to work their magic.

Frieze Magazine | Archive | Snappy Snaps

in looking at the photographic image, what we are doing is, in a sense – or, if you will, in the manifold senses of sense qua the sensational – beholding by way of our eyes (that is to say, receiving visual information through ocular means that could be construed [if we are, for a moment, to put aside Wittgenstein’s reluctance to define his own position – though not withstanding his extant ((that is to say, documented)) definitions – regarding the ((as opposed to [[though also aligned perpendicular with]] ‘a’)) phenomenological] by our brains as what I venture to hereby term as ‘seeing’) a document-of-the-world-that-is-not-the-actual-thing-but-looks-really-realistic-almost-as-if-you-had-been-there.

Frieze Magazine | Archive | The Way They Looked at Each Other

What else is the recollection of a year but an exercise in returning? In 2011, I was fascinated by the endless possibilities this offers. I have increasingly noticed that recollection is perceived as something that negates both the present and the future, and hence has nostalgic overtones. My reservations about this have made me ask a fundamental question: when you go back, where do you actually go to? The difficulty of answering has made me conclude that returning is impossible; recollection induces a collision of past and present that makes you end up somewhere else – somewhere reconstructed from your own contemporaneity. I am beginning to think, however, that the impossibility of returning is its very appeal; it’s what makes the exercise remain interesting after repeated attempts. This encourages us to question not only the intricacies of story telling and the veracity of history, but also to examine and redefine our own time from multiple perspectives.

This is so important.

(Source: sisterwife)

Frieze Magazine | Depth of Focus

The discussion of the intersection of photography and painting is as old as photo­graphy itself. Around the beginning of the decade, this discussion reared its head in earnest through the attempts of artists such as Wall and Gursky to create photographic works that would match painting – particularly that of the 18th and 19th century – in both scale (monumentally sized prints made possible by the advancement of digital printing) and allegorical heft (using elaborate, cinematic staging techniques and digital illusion). However, recent years have seen a resurgent interest in lensless photographic techniques and investigations of the painterly possibilities of digital imaging software that move photography into a relation with painting that is less concerned with rivalry than it is with the creation of a dialogue, or a space in which the two media can intermingle. 

Institutional discourse around photo­graphy remains encumbered by certain established strictures. These are intimately tied to a specific history of photography that is concerned with the camera’s status as a tool used to depict states of things in the world. This history could be said to revolve around confirming or problematizing Roland Barthes’s assertion that the medium’s essence (or noeme) is the ability of the photograph to testify: ‘That-has-been.’ 2 Inextricable from this history is the idea that photography acts as a kind of window onto the world, that the medium itself is a kind of transparent glass through which we see images. This tends to repress, or at least discount, several integral aspects of the medium: the physical support upon which the image is registered, myriad chemical and technical processes, as well as the numerous choices that were made by the photographer in capturing the image. This repression is present even in elaborate forms of staged photography, such as those practiced by Wall, DiCorcia and others, and the baroque digital fabrications of an artist such as Andreas Gursky. While these types of images certainly problematize Barthes’ photographic noeme and ask us to question the veracity of what we see though photography’s imaginary window, they nevertheless speak in the same basic formal language as have photographers stretching back to Louis Daguerre: they are presenting us with a view, whether credible or not.

But where, ultimately, might the significance of these shifts in recent photography lie? It is indisputable that we now inhabit a world thoroughly mediatized by and glutted with the photographic image and its digital doppelganger. Everything and everyone on earth and beyond, it would seem, has been slotted somewhere in a rapacious, ever-expanding Borgesian library of representation that we have built for ourselves.As a result, the possibility of making a photograph that can stake a claim to originality or affect has been radically called into question. Ironically, the moment of greatest photographic plentitude has pushed photography to the point of exhaustion. It is in the face of this waning of photographic possibility that these artists are attempting to carve a way forward by rethinking photo­­graphic subjectivity. They are, in other words, working at the task of what philosopher Vilém Flusser, in his increasingly influential textTowards A Philosophy of Photography (1983), deemed to be the essence of experimental photography: ‘to create a space for human intention in a world dominated by apparatuses’.