Unreal Nature

June 15, 2017

Tangential Threads

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:54 am

… the exhibitions take on a diminutive and porous form, proposing a method of production that is both distanced from totalized spectacle and yet expansive, that neither engages in a negative masquerade of categorical objectivity nor mires itself in a hermetic personal sphere.

This is from the essay ‘Wolfgang Tillmans‘ (2006) found in Walead Beshty: 33Texts: 93,614 Words: 581,035 Characters: Selected Writings (2003-20015) edited by Lionel Bovier (2015):

… Still, the most prevalent art photography relies upon heightened artifacts, depopulated expanses, and cinematic fantasy, distant from the snapshot’s banal depictions, appearing all but ignorant of the implications of the similarly plasticine views that grace billboards and magazines. It was as if, in the wake of the troubling recognition of photography’s malleability in the hands of instrumental use, and its critical reappraisal by artists and critics in the 1960s and 1970, the contemporary production of photographs required turning back to a time before avant-gardist debates or postmodernist dismantling.

Within this milieu, Wolfgang Tillmans work is something of an anomaly.

Tillmans‘ photographs are distinctly nontheatrical constructions: his formal predilection is not for spatially illusionistic microcosms of the world, but instead for pictorial flatness, a matter-of-fact or seemingly offhanded compositional arrangement that sits tenuously within the photograph’s flat field. Tillmans‘ work thus has the sensation of incompleteness, which is often mistaken for the ill-considered or undeliberate naivety of the snapshot.

[ … ]

Frampton likened this indirectly manifest mnemonic field to “a ghostly freight of possible films,” each film a singular manifestation of “directly implied possible films” that form a “cloud or cluster of films that exist virtually.” Tillmans similarly describes a field of images that are in a constant state of “becoming,” proposing a similarly metalogical form whose irregular agglomerations and tangential threads offer a metonymic allusion to the field from which it originated …

… What returns, in Tillmans, is not simply the procession of sameness, but, as Eduardo Cadava elucidated, a “movement through which something other is inscribed within the same, which is now no longer the same, name(ing) what is always other than itself,” in other words, a “return of returning.” In Tillmans‘ hands, exhibitionality becomes a distinctly photographic enterprise, a reformulation of past conditions, within the static immediacy of the exhibition itself, and a reflexive operation that neither falls victim to a melancholic celebration of social anomie, nor a reactionary affirmation of naturalized meaning or transparency.

[line break added] Instead, the exhibitions take on a diminutive and porous form, proposing a method of production that is both distanced from totalized spectacle and yet expansive, that neither engages in a negative masquerade of categorical objectivity nor mires itself in a hermetic personal sphere. The sheer variation in his photographic program — from portraits to performative scenes, landscapes, enlarged punctures in sheets of film, wily gestural abstractions, and serial monochromes — develops a practice that at once embraces the range of procedures that constitute a photographic episteme, and ties these together through an equally rich exhibition rhetoric.

My most recent previous post from Beshty’s book is here.

-Julie

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