Photography at its Limits
“In this historical world that is our own...the first political operator of protest, of crisis, of criticism or emancipation, must be called image, as that which is revealed as capable of breaking through the horizon of totalitarian constructions” Georges Didi-Huberman
In the public sphere, photographs operate in a declarative mode, leaving little room for doubt. They seem to relay the facts of the moment captured--who, what, and where--with a clarity that inevitably links the photograph to an exercise of power. Photographic technology assumes an asymmetrical relationship: either the person making the picture or the network enabling its circulation determine its meaning, while the person viewing it passively accepts that message. In the hands of governments and corporations, photography has helped construct an expansive field of visual images that defines power relations as natural, characterizes certain public and personal identities as proper, and deems specific interpretations of historical experience truthful. That which is not pictured and disseminated en masse through the glaring light of extreme visibility is, by contrast, diminished to the point of near disappearance.
The works presented in this exhibition are interrogative rather than declarative, contradicting the regimes of power that have naturalized and popularized the use of the photograph as a means of tracking and controlling the world at large. These artists either exacerbate to the point of parody images promoted as a priori truths or shared ideals or impoverish these visions in order to expose their contingency. Both strategies render photography political.
These are images that think rather than represent. There is little to contemplate passively in them, and they destroy most of our inherited notions of photography. They propose a different version of the medium, one that does not codify narrow visions of identity and experience but that renders the image and identity experimental--performative, relational, and unfixed rather than stable and foreclosed in meaning. Bodies appear as motley and unruly. Images move, refusing to remain fixed. Staging and theatricality -and by extension fiction- structure the truth of these images. The objects in this exhibition take photography to its limits, and from those limits engage us in pressing concerns of our time: the continuation and expansion of racism and misogyny, the prevalence of extreme narcissism and possessive individualism, the rampant commercialization of our lives. They also, we hope, open up a conception of the image beyond photography, that proposes fragility as the fundamental characteristic of revolt.
Natalia Brizuela and Jodi Roberts