Archives for the month of: February, 2009

I will be out of town this weekend, but if you are interested in growing your brain, this sounds like the ticket.

Download entry form backtothefuture

Call for Participants
BACK TO THE FUTURE…
AN EXPERIMENTAL DISCUSSION ON CONTEMPORARY FEMINIST PRACTICE…
TIME: 6.30pm, Saturday, February 21st, 2009
PLACE: Fifth Floor galleries, Whitney Museum of American Art
RSVP Required. Reservations on a first come, first served basis.
BACK TO THE FUTURE was organized by Jen Kennedy, an art historian, and Liz Linden, an artist.

They are both currently participants in the Whitney Independent Study Program. At this town-hall-style public discussion, participants will be asked to engage in a temporally specific, group experiment aimed at frank dialogue about the feminisms of our day. Relying on a provisional, substitutive vocabulary, our event aims to explore terrain that is not circumscribed by the semantics and tactics of past positions by looking at what, in our contemporary conception of feminism-as-lived-practice, we hold to be intrinsic, innate, and unique.


Brian Ulrich had an excellent post recently on why photographers are not recording the the current economic crisis.  His post has generated 47 comments so far and it seems to have struck a nerve.  I find it interesting that on one hand there is a debate raging over whether we should incorporate unfolding current events into our work, and on the other, the Andrew Kreps Gallery current exhibition To Be Determined–focuses on work that deals directly with the medium of photography. While several of these artists I individually admire, collectively, at this moment, having a show about photography, does seem out of step.  Time Out New York said this:

The cerebral queries posed here spring from pioneering 20th-century photographers (Moholy-Nagy, James Welling, Richard Prince), but fail to break any new ground themselves. One has to hope that this current generation of photographers will ultimately choose to define itself by means other than a few tired lines of inquiry. What form those fresh ideas might take is clearly still, as the title of the exhibition suggests, to be determined.

Ouch!  This genre of work has been championed by Blind Spot, which coincidentally is hosting an event for this show this week.   In the last 5 to 7 years, this type of work has dominated–one name says it all–Roe Ethridge (however, the Soth-style {aka Sternfeld/Shore/Myerwitz} of portrait-scape has also been a force, but it has focused more on the set-up Crewdson stylistic version, which is also less content driven.)

In an age of cultural complacency, during which we elected GW twice, and few of us took to the streets to protest, Iraq, Guantanamo, the Patriot Act, or the dramatic and rapid disparity which expanded between the rich & the poor, work that doubles back on itself and shied away from engagement with the world made sense. But we are in a new era, and maybe Brian’s battle cry, which is being sounded by many major art critics in slightly different terms, has something to it.  As artists, it is our responsibility to be continuously questioning what makes a photograph art, especially in a world not only filled with copious amounts of commercial and amateur imagery but that is also overflowing with fine-art photography.  It is important I think at this moment to pause and question, what is more important–making a photograph that will be deemed “art” or making a photograph that can be powerful and that affect how people view the world.  Will post-post modernism mean that we can re-unite these concepts?

Many photographers currently worry about getting stuck in the “photo ghetto.”  Meaning once your work is represented by a photo gallery, you are stuck as ‘just a photographer.’  The insinuation being that you will be considered ‘less of an artist.’  Photography still hovers in a strange place in the art world.  If your work is photo-based, it is a good way to differentiate yourself from the rank & file.  However, if this is done merely as a way to get ahead in the art market, most likely the result will be all surface.  The best work centering on the photographic process, often incorporates multiples levels of engagement.  For instance Penelope Umbrico’s appropriation work , not only plays with authorship, it includes complex cultural critique, and an exploration of human desire.

With all this ruminating in my mind, I came across these photos on National Geographic.com of an 1908 National Geographic article on the survey of Alaska.  What I like about them, is that they remind me of the incredible power of the photograph to transcend its original purpose.  These images were taken to record a scientific exhibition, yet 100 years later, they could just as easily be a meditation on the landscape genre.  Grainy, muted and strange, they are quite beautiful.  Sometimes, perhaps we try so hard to imbue meaning and concept into our photographs that we actually close down this process, and in fact make them more empty.  There is a fine line between too much content and too much concept.

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Radcliffe Hordern

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Photographs by E. R. Martin



The Library of Congress has some great stuff and some pretty boring stuff. You can easily get lost in its massive collection which takes a great deal of skill to navigate. However, I came across these posters from the WPA project which are pretty fantastic.

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All images Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Collection

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Dorothea Lange | Shorpy photo archive

The art world is a-twitter with stories about the possible resurrection of the depression-era public arts project, the WPA.  The program resulted in some of America’s finest photography. However, according to the blog post below, some Congressman do not think “artist” is a job, and therefore they should not benefit from the stimulus package.

What I find so interesting is the the recent Holland Cotter NYtimes article accused the art world of being overly commercialized and seemed to suggest that “artist” had become too much of a job.  Hmmmm….. where does that actually leave us?  Maybe if there was support for artists, they would stop making over-produced commercialized work, designed to sell and you know, pay their rent.

From the blog: The Artful Manager

Do arts jobs count as jobs? Scott Lilly at the Center for American Progress floats a timely reminder to the good folks in Congress currently bristling about the stimulus package: arts jobs are jobs, regardless of your opinion of what they produce. He quotes Rep. Jack Kingston’s (R-GA) remarks when complaining about the NEA funding (now removed) from the bill:

“We have real people out of work right now and putting $50 million in the NEA and pretending that’s going to save jobs as opposed to putting $50 million in a road project is disingenuous.”

Which suggests, of course, that artists, cultural managers, stagehands, gallery staff, technicians, costume designers, and anybody else involved in artistic pursuits aren’t actually working, or earning a paycheck, or supporting their families, or any of the other productive things road workers might do. Or, to put it more bluntly, arts workers are not ”real people.”

It’s perfectly fair to challenge the ”stimulus potential” of any line item in the massive bill. And there are legitimate arguments to be made that one form of spending or incentive works more quickly, more effectively, more efficiently than another. But this particular line of attack, suggesting that the arts don’t involve people doing jobs, is staggering in its ignorance.

Before we go railing off on conservative politicians, however, we might look for the same bias and blindness among ourselves. I was at a conference panel recently, for example, in which an architect from a well-respected firm with extensive cultural facility projects to their credit made an astounding admission: up until their most recent project, that involved direct discussion with a wide range of practitioners, they hadn’t thought of a cultural facility as a workplace. A performance/display space, an audience chamber, and a public venue, to be sure. Even an administrative office tucked away in the back. But the entire building as a daily workplace for professionals and tradespeople? A novel idea.

Perhaps that explains why so many cultural facilities have spaces that can’t be cleaned, lightbulbs that can’t be changed without massive machinery, and offices and common spaces that cramp and confound the folks who come to work there every day. Somewhere between our lofty rhetoric about the power of the arts, and our mechanical arguments about social and civic benefits, there seems to be a disconnect in our message. The arts are people. They don’t just serve people or help people, they are people. It’s astounding that anyone would understand otherwise.

If you are like me, you are still mentally cowering in the fetal position, devastated over the loss of Polaroid. Type 54 & type 55 were both integral to my work. And yes, Fuji still makes instant film, however it has a very different look, feel and usage.

So I am excited to see that there are others out there mourning the loss of Polaroid – people who have the ability to do something about it.

First off is the Impossible Project. It even made the NY Times,  former Polaroid technicians are promising to bring back some new form of the original.

Impossible b.v. has been founded with the concrete aim to re-invent and re-start production of analog INTEGRAL FILM for vintage Polaroid cameras. Therefore Impossible b.v. has acquired the complete film production equipment in Enschede (NL) from Polaroid, has signed a 10-year lease agreement on the factory building; and has engaged the most experienced team of Integral Film experts worldwide.

My only fear is that 4×5 will prove too expensive to make,  so if you are a 4×5 shooter who wants it back, I highly suggest you contact them now and make your voice heard.

The next project, is probably a lot more in line with current culture. Some enterprising web dude, is about to release an APP (when did this become a proper noun?) called ShakeItPhoto, that replicates the look of old Polaroid on your iPhone.  While my boyfriend pretty much think his iPhone is a piece of junk, I might actually consider getting one with this in the mix.

The pics are surprisingly fun, and they just might make Ryan McGinley obsolete.  Plus for 99 cents how can you go wrong?

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All images from ShakeItPhoto.com


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Well according to Facebook, there are more of you out there than you might think. When I as a kid, I only knew of two other Cara’s.  But thanks to FB, I now see that there are quite a few Cara Phillips’s running round.  At least I know I am not alone.

Today on my morning subway commute, I noticed some EMT workers walking past me with all their gear.  I did not pay too much attention, I was in a hurry to get to work, however as I got to the other end of the platform, I was met with the overpowering smell of bleach.  I looked down and discovered an MTA worker moping up a red substance.  It took my brain a split second to process that for the first time in my entire NYC subway travels, (10 years and counting,) I was seeing blood getting wiped away.

This this might not seem very dramatic to some,  NYC is a big city and certainly stuff does happen here – and in this particular occurrence, with no sign of police on the scene, I assume the blood was not the result of an act of violence. But it spooked me nonetheless, especially considering just last week on the same platform, I watched a man escape from the clutches of a transit cop, and handcuffed, jump down onto the R/W track and disappear.  He was soon  followed by about 10 bewildered looking cops.  The escape managed to shut down the entire N/S subway traffic for a good 20 minutes.  In my 10 years of subway riding I have seen some strange things, but in Giuliani & post-Giuliani NYC, this level of mayhem is rare. But I have noticed a chance since the collapse of Wall Street this fall, things are no longer just frayed around the edges, but starting unravel.

In the past 2 months, I personally have had several rather intense and fraught encounters.   And several people have told me stories, that have really made me question if we are on the verge of a collective breakdown.  One story, involved a person leaving an incredibly hostile, threatening phone call,  fueled by professional jealousy.  The anonymous caller felt the need to tell her, she was ugly and other choice expletives, which no matter how much you may dislike a person, are never appropriate to use.  Another friend had someone take the time to send them an email, basically just to tell them that they thought their photography sucked. This person did not even remove their name from the email.  Another person received an email that was an angry, three  paragraph tirade, and by anger, I mean personal, venomous, attack.  What is going on people!!!!!  When did this type of behavior become acceptable?  I cannot ever remember so many negative, random acts of hostility.  However, considering the current economic horror show, I am not surprised.

To me, one the first priority’s of the Obama administration should be to institute a qualified non-political commission to investigate the incredible malfeasance in Wall Street and in banking which has led to this global recession/depression. Because as much as we should focus on recovery, most people are suffering from feelings of incredible anger, and a sense that they are powerless to do anything about it.  When you read that the wives of  mega hedgefunds managers, CEO’s & investment bankers, are struggling to make do with their housekeepers coming 5 days a week instead of seven, or buying one pair of $700 Manolo’s, instead of three, it is hard to not want to burn down the whole of Greenwich, CT. Perhaps this is why so many people are acting out on strangers.  Someone must take the brunt of our collective anxiety, fear & anger.  Of course, these feelings are destructive and the exact opposite of what will help to lift us out of this economic disaster.  I think most of us, would feel a lot better, if we considered pooling our resources and supporting each other to survive this period of instability.

The art world has been particularly affected by the economic crisis.  One could easily argue, that when a roof over ones head & food on the table become issues, art tends to drop down on list of importance. But abandoning art and artists at this moment, could have a profound effect on how we interpret and think about this moment in culture. So now more than ever, it seems crucial that the art world pull together to make it through the storm.

On great example of this is the the Humble Arts Foundation. They just released their Collectors Guide, which they are in the process of distributing to the art industry and collectors.  (full disclosure my work is featured in the guide.) And while artists did pay a fee, once they were chosen to be included, it was modest, and was paid in two installments.  Humble footed almost the entire production bill themselves.  And by distributing the guide in the art world, they are giving every artist in the book incredible exposure.  Now, they very easily could have used the guide as a way to make money for the foundation, but they are choosing to use it as a tool to showcase artists, just like their group & solo shows do.

What impresses me most about this choice is that we are all in extremely difficult positions.  Gallery owners have incredible overhead to meet, artists have fewer outlets and opportunities, and non-profit’s donations are drying up.  So if there has ever been time to consider how we can work together, this is it.  If not, when this crisis is over, there will be dramatically fewer players left on the field.  Some may argue that this is a good thing, but keep in mind, that fewer galleries, museums and organizations mean fewer opportunities for artists.  And while yes, the art market has been over-hyped, over-saturated and over-indulged for sometime, leaving it to starve to death now, is no panacea.

So if you find yourself feeling like venting, take a few moments and consider what you could bring to the table rather than what you can knock off of it.


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