beyond modernism

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 Dom Ciancibelli raises an interesting issue about contemporary photography at haphazart! Contemporary Abstracts. The issue raised is transgressing modernism and shifting to a postmodern photography practice. It raises the question: can photography be a postmodern art form as well as a modernist one. If so what would the former look like?

This excellent picture----- new year in gaza-----by Mark Valentine would be generally interpreted as a modernist picture: it is abstract, expressionistic and associated with music.Yet it also refers beyond itself as photographic art:

Ciancibelli starts his discussion by quoting from linkwise, who says that:

At the risk if bursting some inflated egos, many images that we see in this forum are at best reiterations and regurgitations of visual issues that modernist painters and photographers resolved decades and indeed centuries ago. Thus there is not a lot to discuss.
My concern here is not to pass judgment on the quality of modernist abstractionist photography but merely to note that abstraction in art has been around a long time---most of the 20th century---and that it is no longer part of the avant-garde movement.
Ciancibelli's  concern is with a photography  practice that has moved beyond the Modernist aesthetic and is postmodernist (albeit loosely understood). I'm unclear what postmodernism in photography  refers to, beyond interpreting it as a questioning, and transgression of, a modernist aesthetic that stood in opposition to (black and white) documentary photography. Art history and the art institution defines postmodern photography as a style, as that which comes after modernism, just as Post-Impressionist painting comes after Impressionism. Hence it belongs to the 1970----1990 period and has been superseded by another style---neo-realism done gigantic (eg., Andreas Gursky?).  

Can we dig deeper? What came out of the questioning  of the modernist/documentary  duality was a rejection of the objectivity of the photograph to the extent  that its weight as evidence were no longer regarded as a fact. Photography was an interpretation. What then? It is a stepping outside the hermeticism of the self-enclosed  formalism of the art insttution into a social and cultural world with its diverse flows  of circulating photographic images.

The starting point for postmodern photography is "'Pictures,'' an influential show organized by the critic Douglas Crimp at Artists Space in 1977, as this was one of the first signs of a generation of young artists who were soon called appropriation artists and finally postmodern artists. They worked with the camera, but didn't consider themselves photographers and also rejected the photo-text combination prevalent in Conceptual Art. They used the camera against itself, photographing or simulating existing images as a way of examining the pervasiveness and social role of photographs.

This took place within the general shift away from high modernism  in academia towards cultural studies and questions of identity and sexual  difference.   The appropriation of of imagery from the mass media disclosed  that imagery was socially constructed and the idea of making  something authentic and original was discarded. So a critical distance was established through the  re-combining one or more different elements from within existing culture.

 In the1980s there was a shift to computer manipulation, the use of colour, the after-treatment of negatives and staged photograph, which  fundamentally changed photographic art. Hence it shifted the emphasis away from traditional media to reproducible media, questioned the assumption of Western art, opened the door to different cultures (race and gender) within Australia, the UK and the US and disclosed a mediatized world of  inter-textual and pictorial reference.

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This page contains a single entry by Gary Sauer-Thompson published on February 27, 2009 2:22 PM.

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