David Nolan Gallery is pleased to present And What About Photography?, an exhibition featuring work by a group of international artists: Broomberg & Chanarin, David Hartt, Trevor Paglen, Tim Portlock, and Davide Tranchina.
Curated by Walter Guadagnini, photography historian and Director of CAMERA – Centro Italiano per la Fotografia, Turin, Italy, the exhibition investigates the current state of photography in relation to new emerging technologies as well as its inherent ambiguity. The emergence of digital imaging in the final decades of the 20th century, and the development of other forms of image making and circulation has made this ambiguity even more palpable, necessitating renewed investigation of the basis of photographic language. Unsurprisingly, scholars and artists, such as Fred Ritchin, Quentin Bajac, and Joan Fontcuberta, have used the term ‘post-photography’ in the early years of the 21st century to describe the defining ideas and practices of our era.
The exhibition explores some of these aspects firstly from a technical, and secondly from an iconographic viewpoint. The artists featured in the show, all born between the late 1960s and the early 1970s, grew up during the technological transformation, and today they all use processes that share little or nothing with traditional photographic practices, or with the device that for decades enabled the very possibility of a photographic image – the camera. Broomberg & Chanarin and Davide Tranchina operate without cameras, giving new life and associations to practices dating back to the origins of photography. Trevor Paglen adopts artificial intelligence techniques to modify images in a visionary manner. David Hartt, who might initially appear more faithful to established practices, has woven his image into a gigantic tapestry that recalls the glorious tradition of pre-cinematic bird’s-eye view panoramas, utilizing an art form that flourished in pre-photographic cultures. Tim Portlock adopts a 3D animation technology that is not photographic but uses photography as a model to question its alleged truthfulness, creating worlds in-between reality and fiction.
If the artists in this exhibition bypass traditional modes of photography, what does their work signify? The works on view allow us to engage with some of the most prominent stances in the realm of post-photographic image making of our moment. If one compares the works by Broomberg & Chanarin, and those by Davide Tranchina, one can realize how images that are apparently similar (essentially abstract images) can in fact carry very different meanings. The work from Broomberg & Chanarins’s The Day Nobody Died series is a meditation on how the representation of war in photographic images is nearly impossible today, when image circulation has reached its peak but censorship has become more pervasive and sophisticated. Similarly, in Every Piece of Dust on Freud’s Couch, an icon such as the rug covering Freud’s couch becomes an abstract image through which we imagine, rather than see, the stories that a piece of fabric can narrate. Meanwhile in the photographs from Davide Tranchina’s Apparent Horizons series, process is a pretext for considering the limit of the visible and the transformation of reality in an emotional continuum that evades the definition of what is real. The three photographs from Trevor Paglen’s latest series, Adversarially Evolved Hallucination suggest a similar outcome in which figures appear to be suspended between different states of matter in a sort of hallucinated metamorphosis, which is halted by a deliberate accident – the excess of visual information. David Hartt in his Negative Space works radically transforms what appears to be an ordinary view into an opportunity to elaborate – again making use of the excess and variety of visual data – a deceptive reflection of reality that brings to the extreme the idea of photography as a “mirror with a memory,” an idea deeply rooted in photography since its origins. Tim Portlock’s video 11th st city symphony focuses on the theme of the city and its transformations in a metaphysical suspension between destruction and the elegy of memory until a new (but still ambiguously artificial) image of the place is established. Adam Broomberg (born 1970, Johannesburg, South Africa) and Oliver Chanarin (born 1971, London, UK) are artists living and working between London and Berlin. They are professors of photography at the Hochschule für bildende Künste (HFBK) in Hamburg and teach on the MA Photography & Society program at The Royal Academy of Art (KABK), The Hague which they co-designed. Together they have had numerous solo exhibitions most recently at The Centre Georges Pompidou (2018) and the Hasselblad Center (2017). Their participation in international group shows include the Yokohama Trienniale (2017), Documenta, Kassel (2017), Tate Modern (2015); Shanghai Biennale (2014); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2014); Tate Britain (2014), and the Gwanju Biennale (2012). Their work is held in major public and private collections including Pompidou, Tate, MoMA, Yale, Stedelijk, V&A, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Cleveland Museum of Art, and Baltimore Museum of Art. Major awards include the ICP Infinity Award (2014) for Holy Bible, and the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize (2013) for War Primer 2. Broomberg and Chanarin are the winners of the Arles Photo Text Award 2018 for their paper back edition of War Primer 2, published by MACK.
David Hartt (born 1967, Montréal, Canada) lives and works in Philadelphia where he is Assistant Professor in the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania. Recent solo exhibitions have been held at The Art Institute of Chicago and the Graham Foundation, Chicago. Additionally, his work has been included in several group exhibitions including Ocean of Images: New Photography 2015 at The Museum of Modern Art, America Is Hard to See at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and Hedges, Edges, Dirt at the ICA in Richmond. His work is in the public collections of The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; The Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; and The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. In 2018 Hartt was the recipient of both a Pew Fellowship and a Graham Foundation Fellowship, in 2015 he was awarded a Foundation for Contemporary Art Grant, in 2012 he was named a United States Artists Cruz Fellow and in 2011 he received a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award.
Trevor Paglen (born 1974, Camp Springs, Maryland) lives and works in Berlin. In 2018 his mid-career survey exhibition Sights Unseen was held at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C. Further one-person shows have been held at the Museo Tamayo, Mexico City; the Nevada Museum of Art, Reno; Secession, Vienna; Berkeley Art Museum; Kunsthall Oslo; and Kunsthalle Giessen, Germany. His work has been included in group exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, United Kingdom; Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid; MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Haus der Kunst, Munich; and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. He participated in the 2009 Istanbul Biennial; 2012 Liverpool Biennial; 2013 ICP Triennial, New York; and the 11th Gwangju Biennale. He has received numerous awards, including a 2017 MacArthur Fellowship, the 2014 Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award for his contributions to counter-surveillance, and the 2016 Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize.
Tim Portlock (born 1969, Chicago, Illinois) lives in Philadelphia and works as a professor of Integrated Media Arts at Hunter College, New York, and at Washington University, St. Louis. Recent solo exhibitions were held at The Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art in San Bernadino (2015); Georgetown University, Washington D.C. (2015); and Vox Populi Gallery, Philadelphia (2013). His work has been included in numerous group exhibitions, at The Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (2014); The Center for Emerging Visual Artists, Philadelphia (2014); the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (2011); Tate Modern (2011); International Guerrilla Video Festival Dublin (2009). He has also exhibited in Japan, Italy, Argentina and Austria.
Davide Tranchina (born 1972, Bologna, Italy) lives and works between Bologna and Milan. He is professor of photography at the Brera Academy in Milan, and the Accademia di Belle Arti in Bologna. His work has been featured in the Fondazione del Monte, Bologna (2019); Copenhagen Photo Festival (2017); Fotografia Europea, Reggio Emilia (2016 & 2010); museumORTH, Orth on the Danube, Austria (2015); MAMM, Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow (2014 & 2012); MART, Contemporary and Modern Art Museum of Trento and Rovereto, Italy (2014 & 2013); MAMbo, Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna (2013); Stadtgalerie Kiel, Germany (2010); Prague Biennale, Czech Republic (2009). HIs work is held in major public and private Italian collections.