Visual Storytelling. Social good.

Posts tagged ‘photography’

The most important exhibit of the summer (for me) is Taryn Simon’s  A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters 1-XVIII. (At MOMA until September 3). It’s about bloodlines and their stories. (Or stories and their bloodlines…) The story sequences have a lot to do with inheritance and chance (or fate, if you will). One story traces an Indian man’s family who was declared dead so that other relatives could seize (inherit) their ancestral farmland.

Taryn Simon Exhibit

Another story depicts the bloodline of the first woman to highjack an aircraft. Another story tells of the descendants of Hans Frank, the Nazi governor of Poland.

Another shows the faces of the children at an orphanage in the Ukraine who will inevitably become victims of human trafficking once they reach the age of 16.

One of the most chilling aspects of the exhibit is the interruptions in the story sequences. At times, a panel in a sequence stares back vacantly. The individual could not be photographed due to religious reasons. Or chose not to out of fear. Or shame. Some individuals sent their clothes to be photographed in their stead.

Viewing, I noticed how the story was different for each viewer, depending on the their choices, their attention span, how they chose to navigate through the image, text and footnote panels (or not).

Viewing, I noticed how our own stories are affected by chance, bloodlines, and circumstance, too. What would our own stories look like, cataloged, curated, made visible, up there on the wall? I think of my friends of American Indian ancestry and their stories. And my neighbor’s stories. I think of my adopted friends and their stories. And my new friends, TEDx organizers from around the globe.

The exhibit is complex, absolute, devastating, human, stunning, beautiful. I’ve known this for some time…Taryn Simon is among the most important artists of our time. And I would really like to meet her. Saying this, I know… the wheel is now in motion.

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Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999.

In this classic Bolter and Richard Grusin develop a theory of mediation for the digital age that challenges the assumption that new media needs a new set of aesthetic and cultural principles.  They argue instead that new (visual) media achieve their cultural significance by reusing and  refashioning  earlier “new” media, such as perspectival painting, photography, cinema, and television. Their theory of remediaton recalls that earlier media have also refashioned one another: photography remediated painting, film remediated stage production and photography, etc.

The authors define medium as “that which remediates” (19) and claim that all media work by remediating–or translating, reshaping, refashioning and reforming other media in both form and content. The authors claim that new media will never be new, that we will not invent a  new set of aesthetic and cultural principles to negotiate it. Instead, like its precursors, “digital media can never reach this state of transcendence, but will instead function in a constant dialectic with earlier media, precisely as each earlier medium functioned when it was introduced” (50). Here the authors claim that what is new about new media lies in their particular strategies for remediating television, film, photography, and painting” (Bolter 50). Bolter and Grusin state “In collage and photomontage as in hypermedia, to create is to rearrange existing forms” (p. 39). Consequently, to bring something new into existence–to create–is to rearrange forms/media which already exist. Notably, Lev Manovich takes up Bolter and Grusin’s idea of remediation but also extends their notions of what the aesthetic is to new media.

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