Under Construction: New Positions in American Photography
Foam, 17.09 – 10.12
When we stroll down the canals of the city centre of Amsterdam, more often than not we come across the most well-known definition of ‘photographing’: the single-lens reflex camera in the hands of tourists. Subjects are usually centered right in the middle of a viewfinder when the shutter button is pressed and nine out of ten times we do not even print the hundreds of photographs taken on our holidays. However, when taking a walk through Under Construction, Foam’s newest exhibition, many questions about photography techniques will arise. The process of printing, presentation on the walls of a museum, and the concept of which this new generation of photographers is playing with makes you think about what contemporary photography actually is.
In the exhibition Under Construction: New Positions in American Photography, Foam speaks of image-makers, visual artists, and images instead of the traditional terms photographers and photographs. Both the medium and its vocabulary are reevaluated and, maybe even more significant, reinvented. The photographic processes and images result in a fantastic exhibition that lends itself perfectly to an introduction to contemporary photography.
With a substantial amount of references to other techniques in the art world, TIME LightBox got it quite right when they stated that we can speak of “a new generation of artists, who are questioning the very nature of photography itself, and see no reason why a photograph can’t be self-referential while drawing from classical Greek sculpture, 1980’s abstraction, performance art, and the internet, all within the same frame” (Krystal Grow, editor). References to earlier trends in art history are well-represented in Daniel Gordon’s images of still life and portraits. Pears, bananas, flowers, and faces are rearranged by making three-dimensional paper sculptures, often still displaying the glue in the final two-dimensional images that he photographs afterwards.
In another part of the exhibition we see an image in a weirdly shaped frame (or a weirdly shaped image in a matching frame?), as if the other pieces of a larger puzzle have gone missing. It is titled Composition 008 (2014) and it is created by Kate Steciw. It is a mixture of manipulated photography, collage, and computer animation that provokes only one thought: “this is not photography”.
And maybe that’s true. Maybe we expect photography to be as simple as tourist photography. Clicking a shutter button, expecting the photograph to be ready to go, printed and shipped to a museum like Foam. It is not. Artists and photographers do not add artistic value to an image just by looking at the composition or making use of advanced digital techniques. The processes and concepts of images may be sometimes hard to understand. However, when conventions are being broken and room is being made for discussion, you might actually have the chance to witness a revolutionary exhibition in contemporary photography. Then, there is always the information in the exhibition leaflets and the museum’s gift shop…
Featured artists: Lucas Blalock, Joshua Citarella, Jessica Eaton, Daniel Gordon, Owen Kydd, Matt Lipps, Matthew Porter, Kate Steciw, and Sara VanDerBeek.
Header Image: Composition 008, 2014 by C. Kate Steciw