It used to be said that sculpture was the thing you fell over when you backed up to get a better look at a painting. Now the same could be said for photography. One of the many effects of the digitization of photographic proceses has been to make it much easier for photographs to permeate the physical world: coat surfaces to burrow under them, to be draped over our bodies and engulf our vehicles. Photographs have always been objects, of course, but as they increasingly insist on their status as objects, they raise a whole new set of questions for creators and viewers.
The action that we regarded as crucial for the photograph used to be the pressing of the shutter, the moment of decision that locked into place a unique configuration of elements on both sides of the lens. That moment was redolent with a host of social interactions and implications, for which the resultant object, the photographic print, served as a kind of key. The print’s own status was rarely considered, beyond issues of craft and scarcity.
Now that photographs saturate our surroundings in a multitude of forms, we are less inclined to look to the moment of the shutter’s press to provide meaning. The students in this year’s thesis exhibition are pushing photographs more and more into the physical space around them, making those photographs just one element among many. They force us to consider social space by breaking down photographic temporality and placing the viewer in a more vital relationship with the installations and events they have produced. The camera is one tool among many in their arsenal.
It is also telling that the social interactions examined in these works operate on an intimate scale. There is less reliance on big subject matter, and a closer attention to the ways that smaller actions shape our understanding of ourselves and each other. Debris from the sidewalk, the gesture of a hand or foot, the rind of a fruit or path of an insect, a whiff of vapor or sprinkling of glitter—each has been examined, weighed, and carefully deployed.
— Nayland Blake, Chair of the ICP-Bard MFA Program