Unreal Nature

November 8, 2017

Riddled With

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:32 am

… Such interpretive conflict, which might have been regarded as artistic failure … is now regarded as a sign of desirable openness …

This is from Why Art Photography? by Lucy Soutter (2013):

… In modernist art photography, prevalent from the 1910s through to the 1970s, photographers made particularly active use of formal elements of picture-making, such as point of view, arrangement of elements within the frame and printing techniques, to nuance the subject matter of their images. Although such artistry was understood to contribute to the value of the image, it was usually regarded as inseparable from the self-explanatory content (as in Ansel Adams’s sublime western landscapes).

… While autonomy was celebrated within the art-for-art’s-sake model of modernism, avant-garde movements throughout the twentieth century focused specifically on undermining autonomy in order to reconnect art and life with various levels of shock, challenging art as an institution and attempting to change the way viewers understood the experience of looking at art.

… Postmodernism in art involves a loss of belief in the truth or unique value of the photograph. If modernism prizes singular images that reflect the world with great beauty or penetrating truthfulness, postmodernism rests on the idea that reality is constructed and unstable.

… As theorists like Hal Foster describe it, postmodernism is a paradigm of recycling. But the original form or idea is reproduced with an awareness of difference, often a gap or irony. Artists go back to the past with a view towards opening up a new space of working. This is intended to be a productive backward looking that may or may not engage with history.

… Ambiguity is absolutely key to the discussion of contemporary art. Ambiguity in art or literature was once seen as a failing unless it was very specific and pointed, such as a pun with a double meaning or a representation of the internal contradictions of a troubled mind or dream state. Contemporary photography, however, embraces ambiguity on several levels. It is common for work to be ambiguous at the basic level of subject matter, resting on a visual confusion between male and female, child and adult, day and night, pleasure and pain, etc.

[line break added] Many works also offer a kind of moral ambiguity, deliberately flirting with offensive, transgressive imagery to create a politically incorrect charge. Most common of all, however, is an ambiguity of meaning in which different interpretations — even mutually contradictory ones — may be held at the same time. Such interpretive conflict, which might have been regarded as artistic failure in an earlier moment of modernist autonomy or postmodern representational critique, is now regarded as a sign of desirable openness, reflecting the layered reality of experience in our time.

… The lasting legacy of postmodernism has been its challenge to the master narratives of the twentieth century, including logic, certainty and truth. Contemporary art discourse thrives on works which are to some extent, illogical, uncertain and riddled with elements of contradiction, fiction and fantasy.

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




Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: