Edits Self

SlideFest has come and gone. It’s a relief really. I am not much of a performer, and somewhere along the way ICP-Bard’s annual event to showcase first year work turned from a slide presentation to full-on theater. It says a lot about the experimental and creative nature of this program.

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Courtesy of Jamie Liles.

For me, I needed a work-around for the fact that I am awful at documenting my work. Most photographers have it easy—digital files or scanable negatives—my large-scale photographic chemical abstractions aren’t as easy to digitize. I also don’t feel like I have the right words yet to describe my process.  Or at least to make it sound more interesting than: something about photography, experimentation and the sheer pleasure of being in the darkroom (it’s sexy).

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The Shower, with special guests Robert Capa and Herve Guibert

I’m standing in the shower. I have a blog post “due” tomorrow. I was going to relay my visit to Ohio and to share my excitement about the energy I felt in downtown Youngstown, the rust belt gem I once called home. “Murder Capital, USA” of the 90s, was now alive with restaurants and bars—and a vintage shop of sorts, where they hold record releases and fashion shows. I went to a poetry reading downtown, once, in high school. That was the best I could find then.

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This new Youngstown was still very new feeling. There was a cinder-block  “beverage center” so poorly placed in the middle of all the action that it eclipsed any semblance of charm or class. But something is happening.

However, having left some nine years ago, I don’t feel wholly comfortable going on about what Youngstown should be doing.

So what to post? It never works when I ask myself outright what I’d like to be pondering as the water rushes my scalp. But invariably, it’s someone like Robert Capa who shows up, at least tonight it was.

I’ve been thinking a lot about studying in the “house that Capa built,” especially since I’m quite the opposite of the “concerned photographer.” Recently, my work has been gestural drawing with black and white photographic chemistry. I made a conscious decision to study at the International Center of Photography. Granted, the Bard program is everything but conventional photographic practices, but the larger institution, the museum, the facilities, the bureaucracy all walk a very straight line with photography. They use cameras at least. I’ve always been on a grail like quest for the essence of photography (foolish), and who better to be among than the photographers.

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I have a project I’m dreaming up that uses some of Capa’s images. I’m embarrassed to admit that I wasn’t all that familiar with his body of work—sure the gunned down soldier, but his iconic images seem to outshine most of his career—despite being ICP and Magnum’s foundation and utter adoration.

There’s one image from Capa’s book Death in the Making that I just can’t get out of my mind. Out of context it could be a recent Jeff Wall image. But I also get a sense of longing that I also associate with Jack Pierson, especially in his Self-Portrait series.  A helmeted soldier stands central with a blanket and rifle over his soldier. He has a week’s stubble. He’s deep in the forest.  Is the soldier Capa’s equivalent?

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I’m not washing my hair tonight, so I take extra time just letting the water hit my neck.

I have to give out a reading to our class in a week or so. My first thought was “Proof by the Absurd” from Ghost Image by Herve Guibert. A teacher of mine from Bennington gave it to me. The way Guibert talked about moments being embalmed in fixer changed photography for me.

I’d never read anything else by him, though I remember my friend Ivy dishing out a lot of money for a used copy of Ghost Image, Guibert’s death obsessed musings on photography published in 1982 (9 years before Guibert would die of AIDS at the age of 36). Luckily, I keep an art account for such necessary purchases. $50. Not too bad.

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The book won’t arrive for a few more days. I’m anxious to read so I checked it out from the ICP library before class tonight.  “Inventory of a Box of Photographs” was practically ripped from my own notebook. His relentless memories aren’t as academic as Sontag or Barthes, but they are equally universal.

The water is starting to run cold. It was a good shower.

KKORY

I-eeee-I will always love Leeeee

I find that I more often change my opinion of artists from love to hate. “New” photography can quickly go from an exciting breath of fresh air to T-R-E-N-D-Y. Smoke and mirrors, collage, dialogue with commercial work, bright colors . . . it’s all contagious. I could run down a list of work I’ve seen in the last year that just doesn’t do it for me any more.

But the more interesting aspect in the equation is me. I’ve seen myself flip flop flap flep flup and flyp many times in the ten years that I’ve been photographing. The work I applied to Bennington with vs. the work I applied to ICP-Bard with vs. the work I’ve been doing lately. It would be difficult to identify that one eye/hand/mind had created these works.

Throughout those transformations, many artists have inspired me—many artists I have loved. But if I could think of one photographer who always has sat in the back of mind, has always comforted me and surprised me—one photographer who has remained constant as I navigate turbulent times, it would be Lee Friedlander.

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Provincetown, Massachusetts, 1968

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The Artist Files

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This past weekend I was working on my bibliography and outline for my paper on the “Boston School” for David Deitcher’s class, From Critique to Rehabilitation: Documentary Today.  I collected books around the library and checked all the usual databases and online resources. I was coming up short on literature. Most of what I had found amounted to incestuous pandering from those who existed in or just outside of the frame of Nan Goldin’s camera. Not much critical heft there. I knew my paper would be speculative, but not without reference points!

The last place to look was the artist files. Running A to Z along the perimeter of ICP’s subterranean library is a vast archive of press releases, newspaper and magazine articles, exhibition announcements, and other ephemera from the careers of hundreds of photographers. A quick stroll: David Armstrong, check; Nan Goldin, check; Mark Morrisroe, check; Jack Pierson, check, check, check! Attendance is taken, the whole “Boston School” is present—some a bit lean, others meatier, but all accounted for.

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CRIT ME BABY, ONE MORE TIME

Hungry Like The Wolf

My boyfriend has been taking me to a lot of dance performances recently—two in the last two weeks, and the New York City Ballet in January. I especially love Modern Dance. It’s one of my big regrets that I studied at Bennington College -a “birthplace” of Modern Dance- and I never took a movement class.

This does not make me a dance critic. Yet, lately, I find myself constructing my critique as the piece evolves. I rush out of the performance to get away from other people and then chew over the performance in my boyfriend’s ear.

“I liked it.” This is what Tim says. Or last night, “that was weird.”

I am simultaneously deflated and enraged. I wanted to throw the performance on the table like a fresh piece of meat and go at it like a pack of hungry wolves—like my MFA class.

And Tim wanted to appreciate it or laugh at it. It seems that while sharpening my talons in the classroom, I’ve forgotten how to look and appreciate. Not that being critical is a bad thing—it’s good to explore my tastes and my morals—but passing judgment constantly just made me judgmental. And probably not that fun to look at art with.

The Greatest Villain of the Art World

“Who is the art world’s greatest villain?” was Nayland Blake‘s question to the Class of 2014 during last week’s Graduate Seminar.

From challenging the existence of a villain at all, to psychological malaises and whale killing, click-through to see the responses of Kathy Akey, Laura A González, Kasia Gumpert, Marina Leybishkis, Xavier Luján, Emilie Lundstrøm, Nina Méndez-Martí, Juana Romero, Aline Shkurovich, Kory Trolio, and Kim Weston.

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