In Allan Sekula published in Artforum a series of essays on the history of . In the manifesto “Dismantling Modernism, Reinventing Documentary,”. Dismantling Modernism, Reinventing Documentary (Notes on the Politics of Representation) by Allan Sekula. For almost 40 years Allan Sekula has been the most important critical thinker . Allan Sekula “Dismantling Modernism, Reinventing Documentary (Notes on the.

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Marie Muracciole and Benjamin J. Filed under art In Allan Sekula published in Artforum a series of essays on the history of photography that responded critically to the emerging art photography boom of the s and s.

In his writing over the following decade, Sekula continually pointed out the exclusions on which this canon and its formalist criteria for entry were based, opening the charmed circle of modernist auteurs to a comparative analysis with other photographic modes: However, Sekula had been making photographs since late inwhile training as an artist. Staying at UCSD to complete a master of fine arts degree from toSekula collaborated with colleagues Fred Lonidier, Rosler, and Phil later Phel Steinmetz to link criticism of the high-modernist canon to a renewed practice of documentary cultural work.

This reinvented documentary would break with the aesthetics of liberal social documentary, which at best was tied to a politically suspect reformism or philanthropy and at worst supplanted understanding and action with only compassion, pity, or the aestheticization of suffering.

As an artistic praxis, it would attend to the semiotic and formal complexity of realist and documentary modes even as it sought to both portray and indict what was seen as the impoverishment of daily life under capitalism. Formally, Sekula and his colleagues experimented with combining images and language; with the multi-image formats of slide shows, photo-and-text installations, and video; and with the occasional recourse to theatricality or fiction in order to call attention to the place of the single, still image in larger networks of discourse and power.

A Photonovelwhich consists of photographs and text booklets chronicling the routines and dreams of workers at a pizza joint. Fish Story was followed over the next two decades by a constellation of related photography-based works, essays, and, later, videos and films that explore the sea as the often neglected material condition for the contemporary economy, countering the rhetoric of instantaneous, digital connectivity by attentively recording a world of manual labor, of the construction of vast new spaces and vehicles of industrial production, and of the slow, ponderous movement of material goods.

For Sekula, a materialist account of the traffic in photographs shows that the myth of photography as a universal language finds its material conditions in the development of the capitalist world order, a global system of commodity production and exchange. Information Agency and corporations such as Coca-Cola. By cataloguing with unflinching p.


Dismantling Modernism: Reinventing Documentary by Nino Van Der Lee on Prezi

Rather than simply rejecting the universal category of the human as a fiction or falsely naturalizing myth, criticism of humanist photography may involve the reinscription of this universality within a conflictual field of power and exclusion—a question of thinking humanism in the negative, or the human under erasure, especially in the context of decolonizing aesthetics.

Sekula concludes by rereading one of the earliest records entered into the photographic archive: Often presented as the first photograph of a human figure, and implicitly the earliest photographic portrait, the picture also turns out to be a scene of labor and economic exchange. Sekula points out that the daguerreotype depicts not just one figure—a male, bourgeois subject— having his shoes shined, as commonly held, but at least two, if the bootblack doing the shining is included.

In making this point, Sekula does not just recover from the archive the historical specificity of the social relations and material conditions that make the photograph possible. Because the often unseen bootblack is registered as a blur on the photographic plate, he remains anonymous and his individual face is lost to history.

Rather than a call to smash or somehow to evade the archival apparatus, counter-forensics engages photographic archives not only as sites of abstract equivalence, leveling, or containment but as sites of struggle. In an interview with Carles Guerra excerpted here, Sekula discusses some of the formal dimensions of his photo-works, positioning his work in p.

The works track the new material spaces and legal vehicles that emerge—from the new supersized container ships, ports, and warehouses required to handle the growing flow of goods; to the flag of convenience system of paper sovereignty that governs the shipping industry, one of the innovative legal maneuvers created by capital to maximize profit, evade regulation, and shift labor costs and environmental risks elsewhere.

At the same time, Sekula attends not only to the movement of capital and the way it reshapes the world but also to the humdrum drudgery and manual labor still required to keep the system moving.

These works seek to register a proletarian cosmopolitanism of the sea, one that has at least partly vanished. However, the invocation in Fish Storyfor instance, of a history of naval mutinies stretching back to the French Revolution is not simply a left-melancholic lament for an insurrectionary past.

Young, for the guest editors.

Dismantling Modernism, Reinventing Documentary (Notes on the Politics of Representation)

We thank Sally Stein for her support of this issue at the most difficult of times and for allowing us to reproduce the images and texts by Sekula included here—only she knows how much djsmantling are touched by her hand as well.


Ina Steiner and Katie Shapiro provided indispensable and unflagging help with images and questions, for which we are grateful. We also thank the Centre Georges Pompidou for hosting the conference out of which this special issue grew, and the Terra Foundation for American Art for generously providing travel assistance.

Allan Sekula, introduction to Photography against the Grain: Essays and Photo Works — Halifax: Nova Scotia College of Art and Design,xiv.

Sekula, introduction to Photography against the Grainxv.

Along with Photography against the Graintwo other key essays by Sekula also appeared in the mids: Buchloh and Robert Wilkie Halifax: In turn, executive editor Max Kozloff resigned. Photo Works — Normal: Illinois State University, Selected Writings, — Cambridge, MA: International Center of Photography,— Sekula, introduction to Photography vismantling the Grainix.

Allan Sekula, Fish Story Rotterdam: Books published include Allan Sekula, Geography Lesson: Canadian Notes Cambridge, MA: Performance under Working Conditionsed. Generali Foundation; Ostfildern, Germany: In the Moment [blog], http: Beaux-Arts de Paris, Sternberg Press, ; and T.

Demos, The Migrant Image: Duke University Press, Modernusm of the Document in Contemporary Photographyexh. Although Tagg draws on arguments he and Sekula had made earlier about the archive, he does not explicitly engage the question of counter-forensics.

Instead, he voices skepticism about recent returns to the archive in art and warns against art practices that mine photographic archives for material while leaving unexamined the power djsmantling that assemble, order, and govern those archives, as well as the instrumental uses to which those archives are put. In Allan Sekula published in Artforum a series of essays on the history of photography that responded critically to the emerging art photography boom of the s and s.

Young, for the guest editors p. Notes We thank Sally Stein for her support of this issue at the most difficult of times and for allowing us to reproduce the images and texts by Sekula included here—only she knows how much they are touched by her hand as well. Order or Subscribe Receive the journal in print or electronic form quarterly, or order single back issues. MIT Press Fair use of images in scholarly publications.

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