group show 56
Source Material: Making Things New
Essay by Jon Feinstein
In the so-called "post-digital" world, what weight do our photographs really have? When 1.2 trillion photos were taken in 2017, many of which have disappeared in the ether of the Cloud (or sold along with our Facebook data), how significant are these commemorations of our individual and collective visual memory? And, as technology continues to evolve, how will we preserve them over time? Decades or centuries from now, will these then-dated images find themselves in digital estate sales? Will they vaporize completely?
The impermanence of these visual memories is an entry point to the conversation that spawned our latest exhibition Source Material. Using as a lynchpin the history of appropriation and photographic collage – from Dada to the Pictures Generation – our initial call solicited work that would not only repurpose or re-contextualize found images, but turn them into entirely new forms.
The artists included in Source Material span generations. Some are baby-boomers – contemporaries of Pictures Generation artists like Jack Goldstein and Sherrie Levine – while digitally native others were born the same year Photoshop came out and likely first made pictures with a digital camera or cell phone. Regardless of their introduction to photography, these artists use forgotten, often disposable photographs to create something new.
For some artists, the process is incredibly personal. Vancouver-based Birthe Piontek, for example, cuts, collages, and rephotographs old family photos to process her mother and grandmother's loss of memory due to dementia and Alzheimer's Disease. Others have a different relationship to the images they reconstruct. Joe Rudko makes abstract collages from anonymous photographs found at yard sales and eBay auctions, addressing photography’s continuously expanding role as a tool to communicate ideas, feelings, and truths. Still others approach the impact and deterioration of digital imagery. Ronnie Wright, for example, sources and manipulates photographs from digital archives, often formed into abstractions through corrupt data, to consider how sentimentality presents itself when only a trace of the original narrative remains.
Through various surgical methods, these thirty-three artists give life to shoebox memories and let them live with new preservation.