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Haunted: Contemporary Photography/Video/Performance

November 6, 2010 – March 13, 2011

Much of contemporary photography and video seems haunted by the past, by the history of art, by apparitions that are reanimated in reproductive media, live performance, and the virtual world. By using dated, passé, or quasi-extinct stylistic devices, subject matter, and technologies, such art embodies a melancholic longing for an otherwise unrecuperable past. Haunted: Contemporary Photography/Video/Performance documents this obsession, examining myriad ways photographic imagery is incorporated into recent practice and in the process underscores the unique power of reproductive mediums.

These mediums, like performance, are defined structurally by the layered temporality they present: they viscerally refer to past and prior acts that are perceived in the present in such a way as to bring the past into the present,to metaphorically bring the dead back to life, and thus to suspend the viewer or audience between history and the immediate. Often the images captured by these technologies are literal documents of the past that bear witness and thereby substantiate the very existence of experiences otherwise only fleetingly and troublingly maintained as elusive memories. It is because of this quality that photography, like performance, has been seen from its inception to have a kind of magical power, if not to transcend death then to constantly remind us, as a memento mori, of the inexorable passage of time.

Drawn largely from the Guggenheim's permanent collection, the artworks in Haunted range from individual photographs and photographic series to sculptures and paintings that incorporate photographic elements, videos, film, site-specific installations, and sound recordings. While much of the work wascreated since 2001, the show traces the extensive incorporation of photography into contemporary art since the 1960s, always with an eye toward the distinctive relationship between passing time and the various modes of image and sound reproduction.

Joan Jonas

Mirror Piece I, 1969

Chromogenic print

101 x 55.6 cm

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Purchased with funds contributed by the Photography Committee 2009.31
© 2010 Joan Jonas

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