home - about- contact - issues - resources - submit

[Volume 1 Issue 1, February, 2009]

Concrete Canvas.

This issue of altfotonet looks at Concrete.

With an Essay by Gary Sauer-Thompson, that looks at, Photography, Aesthetics, Modernism


grey, utilitarian, strong, a barrier, a wall, shelter, protection, support, a canvas. Concrete is a material known for it's Strength, Elasticity, Expansion and Shrinkage. The word concrete comes from the Latin word "concretus", which means "hardened" or "hard".

The Assyrians and Babylonians used clay as the bonding substance or cement. The Egyptians used lime and gypsum cement. The Romans perfected it's use. The secret of concrete was lost for 13 centuries until 1756,when, British engineer, John Smeaton made the first modern concrete (hydraulic cement) by adding pebbles as a coarse aggregate and mixing powered brick into the cement. In 1824, English inventor, Joseph Aspdin invented Portland Cement, which has remained the dominant cement used in concrete production ever since.

Concrete, is a Utilitarian substance, we are surrounded by it. Yet concrete rarely evokes responses from many people. One day however in 2004, I was in one of the usual incongruous places I explore with my camera, around sunset. I looked up and I noticed the concrete pylon supporting the rail bridge I was under. It was reflecting the light beautifully, the concrete, acted like a huge canvas. I was being presented with a glorious display of light, shade and texture, as the sun struck the pylon.

Thus the idea for the 'concrete canvas' pool was born.

This was in the early days of flickr, when it seemed new and interesting groups, were being formed by the minute. So; I created concrete canvas. My idea was to see what the 21st century 'hunter/gatherers' of flickr would produce. For me the one most obvious things that digital photography and web 2.0 has brought to photography is the ability for anyone to seek out and find areas of interest, then share them in a giant shoebox, that is the web.

The results are stunning, abstract, minimal, and surreal.

Photographed in the right way, it could present the most sublime of images, with no hint of what the object, was, or is. Other images, despite their greyness, seem to suggest a world of tension and stresses. The hieroglyphical splashes of paint, and obscure street markings add another level of meaning to already intriguing images, isolated and framed so exquisitely. but what of the concrete's own meaning, 'hardness'. These images give no hint of this, brittleness, pehaps, but hardness hardly, curves and lines, colours bright and muted none of these things are considered hard?

Since Aaron Siskind's body of work. 'The Fragmentation of Language'photographers have been, using a combination of factors, as simple as framing, and point of view, all move the images even further away from photography's alleged representation of reality.

These images, have been chosen chiefly for their sublime qualities, as well as the ideas about abstraction and suggetions that they give about our own fragiltiy. If concrete can rot and crumble what then of our own corporeality?

Curated by Stuart Murdoch

Photography, Aesthetics, Modernism

By Gary Sauer Thompson

One traditional way of looking at photography is the art history one. Art history has traditionally opposed itself to the populism of cultural studies (ie., the pseudopopulist leveling of all cultural values) as a reaction by the art institution to the transformation of art history into visual culture–or "the shift from art to visual and history to culture" in which the political becomes the space of contestation. The practice of Australian art history has displayed a consistent tendency towards a canonical narrative.

The word ‘canon’ refers to a body of works that have passed a test of value in that they are judged to be quality works as opposed to kitsch. The word ‘narrative’ commonly refers to a search for the holy grail of modernism in opposition to an entrenched conservative pre-modernist art. The telos of the narrative is that some works of art (landscape painting as in the Heidelberg School, or modernist art) substantively expresses Australia’s national identity. Bernard Smith’s Australian Painting stresses again and again the necessity of developing an Australian identity through literature and art. The concern is to define what that identity should be by recording its observations and analysis of the necessarily emerging and hopefully distinctive Australian culture.

Art History’s canonical narrative is premised on the binaries of good and bad, important and irrelevant. It assumes that this narrative is both the interpretation of the art of the past; and that is produced from a universalist perspective, rather than being just one interpretation of the past from a particular perspective. It also assumes that it operates according to an ideology of neutrality and disinterest that insists that the author repress his or her subjectivity in the pursuit of the "facts" and that human subjectivity was universal in nature. Human subjectivity assumes the autonomous subject of the humanist tradition.

Looking back from our cultural studies present we can see that the art history’s canonical narrative held that from the time of its appearance, photography occupied a contested ground between art and science, with some art purists claiming it was not really art at all, but a craft, a technology, or, even less respectably, mere merchandise or an industry. This view faulted photography as an inferior, mechanical form of painting that required little or no artistic skill to perform. The assumption in this narrative is that photography causes the nineteenth-century dispute over the artistic value of painting----after photography what value is painting?

This narrative holds that although painting suffered little in the second half of the nineteenth century, its salvation is presumed to have been dumping its mimetic ambitions and the turn to modernist abstraction in the 1910s. Formally, expressively and sensually, abstraction gave painters something to paint after photography, with freedom from the demands of representation and figuration giving rise to the flowering of abstract paintings.

Since our concern is with photography not painting, we are reversing the old hierarchy of art history by concentrating on photography, since it did open up a new technological form of visual production that has led to cinema and digital images on the world wide web. As photographers we now live in this radically pluralistic world and reflect on its history.

Photography and Positivism

Photography's relationship with reality in the 19th century has historically been aligned with the positivist desire for impartial truth of what exists. The conventional documentary images have historically given photography its identity--this really happened and it looked this way at the time. The accompanying rhetoric was firmly linked to objectivity, veracity, knowledge and the claim that something is really only meaningful in the event that it can be proven true or false. Impartial truth, it was held, is not tainted or colored by the values that inform the circumstances of their production. So we have the "view from nowhere" produced by a machine.

The positivist interpretation of objectivity claimed by foundational epistemology became the standard means by which to measure photography in the nineteenth century. The photograph represents empirical truth, with photography becoming a popular example of the positivist view of the world: it represents things as they are without the distortions or biases of human subjectivity. The implication was that photography was transparent, styleless, and a mere mirror reality. This was photography’s ontology, and this interpretation shapes photographic journalism and documentary photography, which then construct an narrative or story of an edifice of knowledge grounded on facts mirrored by a machine with a relentless eye.

That rhetoric has been heavily contested and photography, along with its capacity to represent what is objectively, has become highly politicised. There have been two reactions to the objectivity of positivism and photography as an inherently realistic medium traced by photographic art historians. The first, is an emphasis on photography's potential as a fine art form of personal expression, or narrative that is placed in opposition to those realistic photographic practices associated with, or a part of, commerce, science, and politics. Romantic mythology is counterposed to Enlightenment science with art filling the gap left by the decline of Christianity.

Pictorialists identified themselves as fine art photographers and they explored ways to turn machine made images into fine art, using the rhetoric of creative genius and beauty. Pictorialism, for instance, began imitating paintings of the period, like Turner and Whistler, or even Japanese prints and it simulated foggy, hazy, unclear, dark paintings by using altered photography. Pictoralist photography kind of leaned on painting, and it was the other side of the dualism of positivist objectivity and individual expression. Within this duality there is a hierarchy: positivist objectivity was privileged over pictorialism, in the sense that the latter is subordinate.

Photography as a form of art was struggling to gain acceptance in the art institution, and it did so by trying to become artistically autonomous in an industrially capitalist society by embracing an art-for-art’s aestheticism. So we have the scientism-aestheticism conflict, with its faith in the objective powers of the machine and a belief in the subjective, imaginative capabilities of the artist). Photography finds itself torn between two languages, one expressive (romanticism) the other scientific (positivism).

In the 1930s we had the restaging of the old debate over the artistic status of documentary photography, with some exponents of the often romantic, soft-focused, high-art school of photography regarding the work of Walker Evans and his colleagues as more sociology than art. The lines were not clearly drawn between the two camps by any means, with both Evans and Lange beginning their careers as "art" photographers and Weston affirming the social role of photography in some of his writing. Nevertheless, Evans regarded his work as representing a clear "counteraesthetic" mounted against the style of the "artistic and romantic" Stieglitz.

The documentary photography favoured by Walker Evans both sought to represent the cultural and political chaos of the Depression with an eye toward penetrating the illusions of the American dream, and developing a distinct representational styles of its own. This emergence of the new school of documentary photography as a serious visual art form is one in which Evans makes "photographs" as much the subject of his book American Photographs as American society.

The assumption of a particular (realist and figurative) aesthetic was not contested in this debate, nor was the role of abstraction in photography. These American debates were not connected with the debates in Europe between Adorno, Benjamin, Brecht and Lukacs around artistic autonomy, political art, and aesthetic modernism in the 1930s. In Australia art history has not uncovered the place of photography in the debates over the emergence of modernism, nor does it seem interested in doing so, given its concentration on painting.

Consequently, it was unclear what an aesthetic modernism meant in photography in the 1930s. If truth was considered to be central to photography, it was unclear how this truth content and cognitive content (knowledge) related to photography as an autonomous, expressive art concerned with beauty in the early twentieth century. The truth-content of photographic art became a riddle. Was it a kind of kernel inside the shell of a work of art that could be cracked by art history? What sense is a photographic art true?

The American “debate” between Evans and Stieglitz was superseded by what we might call the shift to modernist MoMA orthodoxy–the preference for European modernism by the art institution. This superseding of a historically particular kind of visual representation or aesthetic, has everything to do with the institutional practices and social relations shaping the art institution. The resistance to its appropriation by traditional aesthetic norms weakens and the aestheticizing of photography takes place under the signs of purity, autonomy, spiritual expressiveness and timeless significance.

Photography and Formalist Modernism

The middle term between documentary photography and pictorialist photography is formalism, which focuses on how photographs are made, rather than what they physically represent. The form is the content. Formalism, in rejecting both positivist realism and romantic pictorialism, emphasizes compositional elements such as color, line, shape and texture rather than realism, context, and content. Everything necessary in a work of art is contained within it. The context for the work, including the reason for its creation, the historical background, and the life of the artist, is considered to be of secondary importance.

This presupposes a rationalist aesthetics that present beauty as though it were the quality of the object itself, dependent on its geometric or other properties without any reference to subjective experience. An empiricist aesthetic, in contrast, reduces the value of the art object to subjective experience or sensations. There is a difference between saying that this photography is good and this photography cause me the viewer to feel good.

The American art critic Clement Greenberg, in an influential article in Partisan Review, argued that the value of art was located in its form. The representational aspects of a work of art are less important than those aspects which embody a thing's 'internal identity'. This led Greenberg to the conclusion that abstraction was the purest art of all in that modern painters were moving towards greater emphasis on the 'flatness' of the picture plane. This triumphal narrative of works of art getting better and better represses the alternative modernism of Marcel Duchamp, the Surrealists and Andy Warhol.

Greenberg's neo-Kantian aesthetics was premised on the idea that the judgment of beauty was (tacitly) universal and incompatible with interest and practicality. The judgment of beauty (what is good in art) is based on taste and experience of the good eye of the critic, independently of any specific knowledge of the circumstances of production or the tradition to which the art belongs.

Greenberg's own position on photography was dismissive as he saw photography's uses within an art context as very narrowly circumscribed. In this "utopian modernism" each discipline, but paradigmatically the discipline of painting, withdraws into what is unique to it--in the case of painting, into the optical--and through renunciation of everything extrinsic to the purely optical finds something positive. The historical situation for modernists was that painting was the core of art, not photography or sculpture. Painting was the key to the internal development of purifying art, which was deemed the goal of historical development of art. So argued Clement Greenberg. The history of art and the history of painting were identical.

In Greenberg's view, photography's transparent relationship to the world undermines any attempts on the part of photographers to make autonomous works of art. A photograph that respects the obligations of its own medium would be anecdotal and literary. Greenberg exiles realism from painting, yet requires it in photography. The limitation upon the medium's artistic potential was its indexicality--as either brute information or uninflected documentation. Each art then had to expel--or "repress"--whatever does not belong to its essence. The Modernist history of photography is marked by various, increasingly elaborate attempts to distinguish art photography from commercial and amateur productions

The inference is that any importance the event photographed may have had (which is what is emphasized in [photojournalism) other than as a configuration of shapes in space, is denied and so lost. The work is intended to be self-reflexive and subjective. Event is indistinguishable from non-event, bad timing is celebrated and tropes of photographic "failure" are used as signatures of a newly self-aware, self-critical tendency. These works were certainly framed institutionally as high modernism and were promoted with an emphasis on mastery and originality of the modernist artist in MoMA-style photographic formalism.

The first real advocate of formalism in photography was John Szarkowski. He became Director of the Department of Photography at MoMA in 1962. with a directive and desire to legitimate photography as a fine art. Szarkowski generated a transliteration of Greenberg's formalist aesthetics into photographic terms. He embraced the notion of medium specificity but rejected

Greenberg's emphasis on the indexical essence of photography Szarkowski laid out his approach in 1966, in a brief but highly influential eponymous catalog essay for the exhibition "The Photographer's Eye." In it he distills the photographic medium to five properties: "The Thing Itself," "The Detail," "The Frame," "Time" and "Vantage Point."

He defines "The Thing Itself" as the actual, the presence of reality in the photograph, what is called the index. While Greenberg describes transparency as the key defining characteristic of photography, Szarkowski seeks to undermine the power of the index by revealing its artificially conventionalized nature. He writes that our faith in the thing itself "is naive and illusory, but it persists.

For him, photographs offer an illusion of transparency, which need not serve as a limitation, but merely add a frisson of reality to the image. Identifying the trace of the real as one of the defining characteristics of photography, Szarkowski claims it as part of his formalist model, even though it is a semiotic rather than an aesthetic property of the medium. Similarly, "The Detail" is a category designed to refute the notion that photographs are fundamentally anecdotal. The term does not refer to the precision of photographs, but rather to their capacity to resist narrative. Szarkowski asserts that the fragmentation created by cropping photographs allows an image to function as a symbol rather than a story because it is cut off from spatial and temporal continuity. "

The Frame" and "Vantage Point" are the two most dearly formal categories. The former refers to the edges of each image and the resulting geometric patterns created within the picture, while the latter describes the spatial relationship between camera and subject. "Time" also becomes a formal category for Szarkowski; it refers to the lines and shapes created in the composition at the moment of exposure.

Szarkowski was effective in legitimating a form of photographic modernism, complete with autonomous artworks and inspired authors. The theory was particularly useful to MoMA in allowing photographs made at any time for any reason to be judged aesthetically without reference to their original context. By daring to attempt to define photography in terms of medium specificity, Szarkowski opened the door to photographers making use of all photographic properties, including those that he deliberately repressed - indexicality, contingency and conventionality.

To think of photography in modernist terms is to think of the production of a self-cpnscious photography as destined for inclusion on the art gallery’s cabinet or archive of photographic art. The photograph would be like a painting. However, despite the efforts of Alfred Stieglitz and Szarkowski, photography was generally considered by the art world to be an interesting but minor phenomenon of modern visual culture. That changed when, in the 1970s, museums began to exhibit and acquire photographs, hire photography curators, and establish departments of photography.

Yet the great river of painting ran out of puff after colour field abstraction, and the river became a network of tributaries that lacked any single current. The modernist narrative had collapsed. The way that modernism has been construed is crucial. There is a basic difference between European modernism and American modernism and Adorno's account of the former and Greenberg's account of the latter. It is the latter (American modernism and Greenberg's aesthetics) that is in contention. And for good reason.

Greenberg's art historical narrative and aesthetics is at the core of the disputes about artistic modernism since he argued that American modernism (that means painting--eg, abstract expressionism, colour field, hard edged abstraction) was an evolution from the modernism of the European avant garde; an an evolution towards the purity of the medium which is the end point of art. Any other path was a false path that lead to kitsch or novelty (as in novelties sold in stores). The only true road was abstraction---- ie., progress from naturalistic representation to abstraction to purity --- in this art historical narrative.

This grand narrative presupposed a kind of trans-historical essence of art that discloses itself through history, and it was then equated by Greenberg with a regional style of a particular period---the monochrome abstract. The implication is that art of any other style is false. So we have all the denunciations of the heretics and art that doesn't matter (eg., postmodernists in this discussion).

There are other characteristics of Greenberg's modernist master narrative: that each art stay within the boundaries of its medium and not usurp the prerogatives of any art or medium; that the evolution of art to purity was to be enacted through painting; the denunciation of parts of the European avant garde---Dada, surrealism--as historically retrograde and outside the pale of history; in 1992 looking back to the 1960s he said that nothing had happened in art for 30 years, and, in looking forward, he just saw decadence. It was a dead end.

However, if modernist critical practice was out of phrase with what was happening in the art world in the late 1960s and 1970s, it remained the basis for most critical practice especially that of the curatoriat and the art history professoriate. They continued to reduce all art of all cultures and times to its formalist skeleton. The art galleries of Australia including the Australian National Gallery, were all transformed into clones of the Museum of Modern Art----a temple of beauty rather than imperial power. For them beauty and truth are identical and the release from the bondage of ugliness is also a release from the bondage of ignorance.

They continued to insist that the social truth content of works of art is not really part of the province of art at all, and they continued to assume that aesthetics should limit itself to beauty as significant form (usually construed as “contentless good design.”) Art (including photographic art), in short, does not have the ability of enlightenment, since it has nothing to do with systematic knowledge. That is the province of science.

Temples of beauty are also temples of power, even if it is disguised by an aura around art and its mystification as a cult object that turns art into a pictorial hieroglyph and fetish. Walter Benjamin iconoclastic critique argued that this transcendent aura was undermined by the mechanical reproduction of photography. Photography is a new form of production that transforms the traditional understanding of art. The ground shifts under art, in that it losses its status as an idol and the power of the art institution is disclosed.postmodernism

Postmodernism, which emerged in the Australian art world in the 1980s, is the name given to an iconoclastic critique that rejects a Greenberg formalist modernism and its purist break with history; a turning away from art as defined by modernist criteria. If the Greenberg’s master narrative which had painting as its standard bearer was over, then there was no narrative to replace it. What did that turning away mean?

The prevailing interpretation is that postmodernism offers a value-free, decorative, de-historicized quotation of past forms and that this is a most apt mode for a culture like our own that is oversaturated with images. According to Frederic Jameson, parody has, in the postmodern age, been replaced by pastiche: "Pastiche is, like parody, the imitation of a peculiar or unique, idiosyncratic style, the wearing of a linguistic mask, speech in a dead language. But it is a neutral practice of such mimicry, without any of parody's ulterior motives, amputated of the satiric impulse, devoid of laughter" . Jameson sees this turn to "blank parody" as a falling off from modernism, where individual authors were particularly characterized by their individual, "inimitable" styles.

Postmodernism works from the suggestion by Foucault that subjectivity is defined by the conventional systems responsible for making cultural meaning, systems he terms discursive practices. The "death of the subject" refers to the liberal universal view of human subjectivity being abandoned in a period that recognized the existence of an unconscious mind, the opacity of language, and the role of discursive practices in the dissemination of social power.

If art history is now conceived as one way of understanding the art world rather than the way in which the art world can be understood, then photography’s mechanical reproduction, in undermining the distinction between original and copy, is an attack on the art gallery construed as a bastion of a modernist kind of art politics.

In On the Museum's Ruins Douglas Crimp argues that that the acceptance of photography as a significant expressive medium in art "foreclosed", or at least disrupted the discourse of modernism in the art world. "Art world" is used in the sense of Arthur C. Danto: the network of artists, collectors, dealers, curators, historians, foundation officers, and critics which constitutes the material and intellectual circuit of art valuation, exchange, interpretation, and patronage. The modernist fetishism of art had to a large extent, transformed photography from a subversive element within modernism to yet another avant-garde stage in modernism's progress to purity.

However, the appearance of photographs and photomechanically-produced media in the art world interrupted modernism's discourse on originality and the irreducibility--the aura of the unique object---forming a fault line along which the sensibility called postmodernism began to coalesce.

One site of this rupture is Robert Rauschenberg's photographic reproductions Jeffrey Abt paraphrasing Crimp's argument says:

By juxtaposing those flat, monochrome photomechanical images alongside, covered by, or printed over vividly expressionistic brush strokes of paint, Rauschenberg intensified awareness of what, in the discourse of modernism, constituted the essence of art as high culture: the texture and mass of paint deposited by the brush stroke, material evidence of the artist's hand--the artist's signature--in a work's creation. The tactile, worked media of art had become not only the preeminent signifier of the artist's presence in late nineteenth and twentieth century art theory, but also a foundation upon which the modernist epistemology of aura was in part erected. Moreover, by joining the photomechanical image and brush stroke on the same surface, Rauschenberg augured the use of photography as a counter-discourse to modernism. When the art world found in the photograph an artistic "there" there, despite the absence of the artist's hand-wrought mark, the discourse of modernism was breached.

The art world's, and specifically the museum's, valuation system, based as it is on a currency of aura, was suddenly destabilized. Douglas Crimp argues with reference to Walter Benjamin that:

Through reproductive technology, postmodernist art dispenses with the aura. The fiction of the creating subject gives way to the frank confiscation, quotation, excerptation, accumulation and repetition of already existing images. Notions of originality, authenticity and presence, essential to the ordered discourse of the museum, are undermined.

The new techniques of artistic production dissolve the museum's modernist conceptual frameworks—constructed as they are on the fiction of subjective, individual creativity—bringing them into disarray through their re-productive practice and ultimately leading to the museum's ruin. In his essay The Museum’s Old / The Library’s New Subject Crimp says:

For at a certain moment photography enters the practice of art in such a way that it contaminates the purity of modernism's separate categories, the categories of painting and sculpture. These categories are subsequently divested of their fictive autonomy, their idealism, and thus their power. The first positive instances of this contamination occurred in the early 1960s, when Rauschenberg and Warhol began to silkscreen photographic images onto their canvases. From that moment forward, the guarded autonomy of modernist art was under constant threat from the incursions of the real world that photography has re-admitted to the purview of art. After over a century of art's imprisonment in the discourse of modernism and the institution of the museum, hermetically sealed off from the rest of culture and society, the art of postmodernism begins to make inroads back into the world. It is photography, in part, that makes this possible, while still guaranteeing against the compromising atavism of traditional realism.

Reproductive technologies allow post-modern art to dispense with the ‘aura’ of the artwork altogether, and so undermine values such as originality, authenticity and presence that are essential to the modernist discourse of the museum. Crimp argues that contemporary photography used appropriation to create a multiplied, or postmodern, reflexivity in art. Post-modernism is the rejection of modernism's grand narratives of artistic direction according to which art progressively strives to achieve identity with its own material base; it undermines the boundaries between high and low forms of art, and it disrupts genre and its conventions with collision, collage and fragmentation.

The critical power of postmodernism, therefore, is tied up with its critique of a modernist aesthetic embodied in the art institution. If for modernism, the separation of medium for purposes of defining "core" attributes is fundamental, then when postmodernism renders medium all but irrelevant except as a means to an end, the field of art and photography changes radically. What many photographers fail to recognize is that the ideals and institutions of photography as an autonomous discipline with distinct boundaries - the condition so beloved by modernists - dissolves with postmodernism.

What now? Arthur Danto in After the End of Art says that it means:

the end of the exclusivity of of pure painting as the vehicle of art history....[Paintings] peers were not paintings of other sorts, but performances, and installations and of course photographs an earth works and airports and fibre works and conceptual structures of every strip and order...painting liberated from modernism, has many functions and can come in as many styles as there are imaginable ends fro painting to serve.

We can go further this pluralism in the making of visual images now that painting has lost its privileged position in the art world. Postmodernism’s dispersal of the stable narrative voices of art history to try to make sense of the past, is replaced by a conception of visual culture as a complex interaction of myths, discourse, cultural languages and signs, that is open ended and constantly being re-worked and added to. So to represent the past in photographic images is to open it up to the present and to rework the past in a new context.

This self-reflexive approach to visual culture often involves the use use of parody: citing a convention only to make fun of it. Parody—often called ironic quotation, pastiche, appropriation, or intertextuality—is usually considered central to postmodernism, and what postmodernist parody questions is the unacknowledged modernist assumptions about closure, distance, artistic autonomy, and the apolitical nature of representation.

This gives us a pluralist art and a pluralist art criticism. The traditional assumptions about the aesthetic product that are questioned by postmodernism include: 1) the notion of artistic originality and the cult of personality that surrounds the artist; 2) the assumption that subjectivity is stable, coherent, or self-determining; 3) the capitalist principles of ownership and property; 4) all contentions that meaning or identity is natural rather than artificial; 5) the belief that one can know history the way it really was; 6) the belief that there is such a thing as a neutral or non-ideological position; and 7) the claim that one can secure an autonomous yet still effective realm for the aesthetic product, separate from either a mass audience or the mass market.

This implies that the coherent discourse of art history that once held together the displayed fragments called art objects in terms of “self-evident” quality of masterpieces—has become a ruin. What then of the art gallery after the criterion for determining the order of aesthetic objects in the museum throughout the era of modernism—has been abandoned and as a result “anything goes.”?

The art gallery as museum survives, but the gallery falls away as the site for presenting works of art. What is emerging is a plurality of sites given the way that digital technology has enable people to start making an images of their own and curating their own exhibitions. The selection is done in terms of the curator’s definition of ‘worthiness’ and it is put into some sort of order. this order may or may not be based on an aesthetic judgement or not.

Cultural conservatives will say that this DYI ethos is a newly legitimated free reign of irrational judgements and is a wasteland without memory, a quicksand where positions are swallowed, without word, and that what passes for art in Australia is nothing but a series of non-art formulisations of stylistic mannerisms lifted from the work of various overseas artists.


We have stepped into the world of the different interpretations of photography and photographic practices that are informed by the differing interests of divers interpretive communities. A world in which cultural studies must address questions of representation, signification, and the nature of the subject if it is to deal adequately with its chosen field. It is a world of cultural taste, in terms of class, habitus, and cultural capital, and the social critique of the Kantian aesthetic.

For traditional art historians this shift is to surrender a history of art to a history of images in a visual culture ---it represents the loss of art history, the historicity of artistic forms as they are understood through the deferred action of avant-garde practices in the present. It is at this point that we can ask: what history, whose history, history to what purpose.

These questions open up the attempts to use a canonical narrative to close things down amidst both the switch from analogue to digital that so characterizes our contemporary world, and the emergence of the world wide web with its space for creativity, invention and expression within decentred, rhizomatic networks such as Flickr.

This allows us to explore the idea of a visual poetics Just as language is poetic when it captures a moment without exactly telling a story, we can speak of poetics in art photography that evokes an emotion or idea with the sweep of a line or a radiant passage of light.


Slide show software provided by, highslide.com.

All images are used here with permission, or we have endeavoured to the best of our abilities to contact the artists and seek their permission to publish. If you are one of the few who didn't confirm your agreement to publish here, please contact us to address this issue.
Meet the artists.

home - about- contact - issues- resources - submit
ISSN 1836-845X
content © their respective owners.