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The Photography Program in the School of Art, Media, and Technology at Parsons The New School for Design, the Aperture Foundation, the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, and the Shpilman Institute for Photography jointly present “The Photographic Universe: A Conference.” This two-day symposium brings together leading photographers, scientists, theoreticians, historians, and philosophers, drawing from the faculty at Parsons, professionals in science and technology, and experts from external institutions to reflect on and discuss photography at a pivotal moment in its history.
Art, Media, and Technology at Parsons |
The field of photography is constantly changing. What constitutes a “photographer” or a “photograph” has always been redefined by technological innovations. In the last two decades, the digital revolution and the Internet have enabled us to quickly develop new photographic processes, rapidly altering our definition of photography. One might even say that the present state of photography is similar to that of the time of its invention, when the form’s emerging cultural significance swiftly expanded as a result of technological innovations. “The Photographic Universe: A Conference” reflects on this current moment, with the pervasive digitalization of the medium and its speedy permeation into contemporary life. Prominent thinkers and practitioners from a variety of artistic, scientific, cultural, and sociopolitical backgrounds discuss their role in the growing the field of photography, evaluate its increasingly blurry relationship between art and life, and speculate how photographic images will continue to change the way we see our world.
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THE NEW SCHOOL |
* Location: Theresa Lang Community and Student Center, Arnhold Hall, 55 West 13th Street, 2nd floor. 03/02/2011 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
I like to welcome James Welling and Walter bin Michaels for the afternoon session Thank You Arthur it's great to be here with some familiar faces from Los Angeles in New York I see and it's also great – sorry I want to start a different spot it's also great to follow Charlotte cotton because Charlotte with words without pictures started a really interesting dialogue in photography that Marvin – was telling me that reminding me that there are a number of conversations that have been going on about questions around photography the comfort the stuff that's been going on at MoMA for the last couple of years I was part of a conference at UCLA called around photography and words without pictures obviously so it's great to be part of this conversation that Arthur is organized and I'd like to thank the new school I thought I'd show some slides looking at I guess how I use Photoshop when Charlotte was talking about you know when photography changed photography changed for me in 1997 when I first got a copy of Photoshop at whatever version it was 4.0 up until that point I'd never really worked in color and I had a kind of want to call it clunky but I had a kind of awkward and self-conscious relationship to pictures made with analog materials even though I work today mostly digitally I still go back and forth as many of you do so I wanted to show you a couple of projects that I used Photoshop Charlotte was also talking a lot about the future of photography but one of the great things for me about the medium of photography is it's also a medium of the past obviously it's always about things that have been so as we look at the future of photography we also look backwards and and finally that the great set of tools in Photoshop as many of you know a lot of these come from other disciplines mostly the printing industry so it's it's this Photoshop is a kind of mixture of all of these tools but they're also based on a lot of old-fashioned photo practices the first group of pictures I'll show you I'll show you three groups of photographs these are from a series of images that I made at the Philip Johnson glass house and I was invited to photograph their mom by Jody Kuan at New York Magazine and she challenged me to do something different the glass house is one of the most photographed you know structures in America so I was able to take some techniques that I was using and another body of work namely using colored filters as a way of working with a glass house one of the things that fascinates me and has been fascinating since I started working with Photoshop is the use of channels in Photoshop as everyone knows and it doesn't really need to be repeated but we are eyes use red green and blue channels physiologically we're looking or we're taking parts of the spectrum and breaking them up into RGB channels using sensors in our eyes and this is the basis for all photographic processes or all practical photographic processes and all reproductive processes so I've been working with red green and blue channels green blue filters and started to work with the filters themselves in photographing at the glass house I used the act of putting filters in front of the lens putting pieces of glass this is basically a clear piece of glass at the bottom of the frame that's reflecting what's behind me as a way of kind of doubling or intensifying the experience of being there and so for me this this project was about being at the Glass House 2x twice both being there literally but also adding things to it using the structure of the Glass Houses an armature to hang these sort of experiments that I was working on and even though a lot of these pictures are done on the spot I'm not using a lot of Photoshop interventions they're all printed digitally obviously the inverted photographs are work done in Photoshop when Arthur suggested the title of our talk be photography and art I changed it to architecture a site and photography because I was working with this idea of the site is the site the work of art or is it the photograph of the site but in the interest of time I've kind of compressed the talk to just really looking at these pictures I've made of architecture this project this is one of the Photoshop interventions where I have a black and white photograph in the bottom and a color photograph from the top the second group of photographs I'd like to show our pictures that I made at the 1934 Pierce rodas einde Maison de verre and these are all images that were made like the glass house pictures with a digital camera but I worked on them in Photoshop and I've kind of intensified the colors in some cases and exaggerated used different tools hue and saturation posterization gradient mapping to change the color of this extremely interesting kind of machine for living that was a gynecologist office it's also the site of Walter Benjamin's he was intending to give off the his talk called author as producer at the Maison de verre because the people who owned it were very interested in intellectual ideas at the time but Benjamin came down with the flu did not give authorization Tavares really prison-like it's lots of black tile and black painted doors so I guess I'm looking at in the glass house I'm looking at interventions that I make while I'm taking the picture at the moment of the exposure and these pictures are all done in post this is the doctor's office in intensifying the colors I this this particular image is like a kind of summer sunrise almost and when it's a hundred and fifty degrees outside I mean there these pictures are all in person they're kind of torqued and very strange-looking images both of these are I presented inkjet prints these are lying on mat paper and the others are on glossy paper so in a way what what remains of the misunder bear is the black and white armature the structure of the photograph and where in these two pictures the previous one the columns are beige and this one the columns are red so I'm able to using hue and saturation make big alterations to the image but in some way the structure the architecture of the house the black and white image stays constant and the last group of pictures I'm going to show you are a series of photographs I made in 2005 with the program Maya which is a 3d program and generally used for animation and the title of this project is called war and they were made in response to seeing a lot of pictures coming back from Iraq where there's a lot of car bombings and so what I did was I took a plastic tile that was about three inches square by about a inch high and measured it traced it entered it into Maya working with an assistant who knew the program because I don't know the program but I directed him and we created a grid of 64 of these plastic three inch square tiles by one inch deep or high I laid them out on a space and then fractured them using different tools to create different fractures then we lit the exploded landscape and I flew around with a mouse and made photographs and these are printed out as 24 by 36 inch inkjet prints one of the things about Maya is that it's texture lists also these pictures have it absolutely sickening kind of smoothness to them now this is you can kind of in the middle of the structure all of the destruction and there you can see the grid of tiles now this is the last slide so let me turn it over to Walter so I'm glad to be here today actually do you have the whole little graph we have actually well his most recent at work screenshot by James Welling yeah mr. background come later I am and I've actually been having conversations for I made like 25 years this one will be different in two ways it's in public they strut and the second one is the structure of our conversations has sort of been you know I'm a literary critic and literary theorist I sort of do 90% of the talking Jim sort of you know stands there and looks beautiful but it hasn't been a huge problem for him because what I mainly talk about is him and his work so today is going to be a little bit different part because it is in public but partly also because I'm not gonna really talk that much about Jim I'm gonna try and keep quiet I've only got 10 minutes not talk too much and not talk too much about Jim although I do well say that for my thinking about photography but more than that about art in general has been deeply informed by just looking at things like the kind of pictures you just saw the last 10 minutes so I would never have written the things I've written for better for worse if I hadn't had a kind of extended relation to those pictures I want one of the advantages of doing 10 minutes is that you know you can't possibly give the reasons for the things you believe you can just sort of say them it's kind of freeing in a certain way you don't have to have an argument so I'm just gonna say a couple of things what I wanted to talk about was first today the first title but we went with Jim's which was sort of photography as art but also especially in the wake of the discussions this morning which I thought were from which I you know profited greatly talk about photography as art and at the same time talk about photography as politics because I actually think in the last 20 years the only way you can talk about photography and politics is by talking about photography as art and that's where I don't really have to give the reasons but I'll give us a suggestion of what the reasons are and that is I think that the one thing to say is that the reason that photography has been beyond the talents of individual photographers so central to the history of art in the last let's say 20 or 25 years is because it's in photography that the question of form and what form might be has been raised most powerfully and answered in different ways the kind of longer account of this would require sort of a sort of history of the critique of form the critique of representation that came out of post structuralism the sort of development of that in the 70s and 80s and its ongoing forms now if you look on the website that Arthur's produced so brilliantly and reads across the house piece the piece that I completely disagree with you will see though how the question of form is at work so that it's it's raised the question of form and in raising the question of form and it making possible a certain notion of what aesthetic form is renewing a certain notion of aesthetic form I think it's also played a kind of crucial political roles and this is goes back to or in the previous panels the sort of accounts the brilliant accounts of how benjamine but especially burette hated photography in a certain sense he hated photography for political reasons I think it's kind of crucial here and I think we also saw it really in our responses to us photographs those you know deeply affecting photographs that were up earlier the question of form it seems to me in our period which is a period that begins let's say about 1978 or 79 and runs through to this moment and is customarily called by political theorists period of neoliberalism it's also not completely accidentally the period of the rise and faul of post-modernism would that it were the rise and fall of neoliberalism has just been the rise so far no falling has been a period of sustained political change certainly throughout the so-called developed nations but increasingly throughout the world that's part of what nailed herbalism is all about and what's crucial about form what makes form political it's precisely that form resists one of the things that Brecht worried about that is form both refers to in the photograph but breaks from the subject of the photograph and perhaps we could talk about that in some of Jim's photographs form and this is the sort of more controversial claim it's completely autonomous with respect to the beholder that is to say from the standpoint of the work of art or a certain work of art what you're feeling the way we all had very powerful feelings one way or the other one we saw those photographs of the events in Somalia but what you are feeling from the standpoint of the form of the work of art is completely irrelevant there's nothing whatsoever to do with its meaning and I think that at this moment is an important political claim why and this is sort of the last thing I'll say I should keep on going at least till the light turns to yellow because I sort of want to see that happen yes I've never seen one of those before it kind of great is is that the politics of neoliberalism the politics that are made possible this extraordinary rise in inequality that's 2005 it gets way way worse in 2007 and 2008 and amazingly it actually even gets worse during the current recession and if you just did the top 0.1% of the top one percent it would be even worse still what makes this has been possible is that in a certain sense the politics of neoliberalism have been deeply a politics of identity and of affect that is of who people are and how we feel about them and that have involved a systematic refusal both on the part of right-wing nail liberals that is people who know they are conservative and of left-wing nail liberals people more like us who I think are conservative but don't quite know it a complete and deep refusal of the category of class crucial thing here about the category of class is that people your class position is not an identity you do not belong to a class because people think you belong to a class if you are poor your poverty is not alleviated by people being nicer to you or ceasing to condescend to you or CSUN to be prejudiced in relation to you one of the fundamental developments the last thirty years has been the sort of transformation into poverty as a kind of identity as if then the fundamental political project of the left should be to respect the poor wares of course from a certain Marcos perspective or indeed any redistributive perspective the fundamental thing to do with poverty is not to respect the poor but to eliminate the poor that is to say to redistribute the wealth and what I would want to suggest to you today is that in the most ambitious photography of the last thirty years even among photographers who had themselves no particular political entrance and I am looking at Jim Welling who does have political views but as far as I know does not spend a lot of time reading Hegel and Marx okay even among photographers like that the ambition to form has come to play a useful role in the way we think about our contemporary politics a role above all and beginning to help us see through the sort of crises of a star system the crises of identity the crises of representation all of which have formed the sort of culture of neoliberalism and begin to see a set of events even including those awful events in Somalia and in Afghanistan and wherever and indeed in the US and the end the death chambers as as functions not of our ethical relations to people with different identities but of our deeply political and economic relations not only to people of different classes but indeed our own class and indeed to the very idea of class thank you well I just made yellow so maybe I'd be curious to see two feet or just you know go over some of your early earlier ideas starting with the gold standard you're kind of groundbreaking essay where you link up what I found amazing was linking the idea of an economy monetary theory paper money versus silver and gold to aesthetic theory this seems like something that I mean you're a pioneer in terms of being able to put economics together with aesthetics yeah how did you get that idea this is not where the Charlie Rose show doing this I don't know where did you get the idea for the whatchamacallit thing I you know Jim's work first interested me he made me promise not to tell the Cindy Sherman story so I'm not gonna tell her involves buying things involves buying some things and not buying others a long time ago and my graph is gone I thought my graph would stay the entire time look I can't use this for doing this I I was I've always been interested in my work originally in the question of economics and the question of forum I've got a much better account although I didn't exactly give it just now so well but I got a better account of why I'm interested in them and Jim's work early on was useful for me I don't know if you know he did a series of aluminum foil photographs they're sort of hard to see what they are but but they're not impossible to see what they are and there is there one on there something no no and they're part of what interested me about it was that a lot of Jim's early work it's been transformed license yeah it just shows that the rich are getting richer right you know I've actually kind of moved on myself start doing this what is that is that what you saw in these photographs that's better go because you're driving them insane or me insane so and it definitely mattered that much Oh perfect is that you know there's a big there's there's always been a debate among in people who write about photography among photographers themselves if the debate gets muted sometimes about whether a photograph is or is not a representation and there's an important sense in which Lisa so-called straight photograph is not a representation that is it has a causal connection to the thing it's a photograph of that is different from let's say a painting of it or from a word used to name it there are many different ways of talking about this the discourse of indexicality is one of them who doesn't matter for our present purposes which one it is the thing that interested me about Jim's photographs very early on we're thinking now sort of work that was done in the early 1980s was that on the one hand these photographs had a very strong relation to the things they were photographs of it was not I mean you were immediately drawn into that you knew you were looking at something in the world and that was a crucial point but at the same time you felt very strongly the effort to produce a kind of internal unity within the photograph itself when I'm calling here what I call today form so there was a kind of tension in the photographs between the things there were photographs of and the attempt to assert the kind of problematic relation to their being so connected to the world one way to put this would be just to say that the photographs dramatize what you know we would call their external relations they're connected up to the world connected up to the observer but they also dramatize the or internal relations you know Helen baju is said kind of very brilliantly that the only finite thing in the world is art work of art is the only finite thing in the world and I didn't have that phrase then but looking at Jim's early work actually seem to me to dramatize just that why did that connect up with money connect up with money right away because if you were in story until the 1880s and 1890s writing with the literature of the period and you recognize that the battle over the gold standard was a kind of crucial issue and then you looked at the battle over the gold standard in these terms what you saw right away was the battle over the gold standard that is the battle over whether gold should be money or whether there should be paper money I'm simplifying a bit for these purposes was precisely a battle about the nature of representation what are the gold bugs want the gold bugs wanted only gold to count as money wishes to say that he'd only want there to be money because gold traded at its price not as money but ads prices gold so if they thought all money had be backed by gold they thought what they thought that basically there should be no such thing as money or money should just be a sign of gold whereas the free silver people but then the greenback people thought that no money was a representation so he was right away there was a certain problem in political economy about the nature of representation in relation to the object and this was a problem that was central to photography interesting enough there wasn't that central to the photography of the period but it was actually really central I first I thought just to Jim's work but then actually if you look at the whole generation that emerged you begin to see a kind of I won't call it obsession because it's no doubt unconscious with many but you begin to see a kind of commitment to that set of problems the more formal term battousai the ontology of the work of art and jim's work has always been from me about the ontology of the work of art and as it turns out when you are talking about what a work of art is you are whether you want to or not involving yourself and a whole set of discourses about an are in our moment the neoliberal moment at the moment in which everything is monetized in which everything is for sale their commitment to the relation between the real and the representation is actually a kind of political commitment so for me it up say that again if I say it again people will say that's can't possibly be true the whole thing for me is I say it fast and you move on but there's an essay there so there's a journal that Jim and I are both editors of just went up live about two weeks ago called non site org I'm scientists and non-scientists etics freed crosshair in the form of the photograph that actually will explain the whole thing to everybody's satisfaction we have you here the your use of the word form it almost should be an italics because it means so many it's like such a big term it's almost like a Greek word yeah we sorry you took away you're a ghost yeah I had a Nicholson know what you had the eye goes to quote sir okay you know when you teach photography you you read shark Kowski and it's our cows keys essay on Egleston I think is one of the most maddening amazing essays he starts out in the beginning where he wonders if you know why Eccleston's photographs around Memphis are so amazing and SAR cow's Keys has wanted to be great if the places were Egleston photograph were the work and then char Kowski says it says you know but we know better the artists the place is never the work it's what the artist you know does with it I mean very very crudely but that struck in my I mean I would say that I have a mill to get that out of my head what if the place where the work so in other words what if the represented were the work yeah I mean and but the other quote that I will I'm like well cuz the other the point about this was that then we were talking bit about this in advance but really is a kind of rehearsal of conversations we've had you know or indirectly sometimes in print a million times I mean part of the point would be there Jim's completely fascinated by place in general even in a feeling didn't read a gelsen state if you just like hang out with him you have to go visit places these from and you have to like go see these things and go revisit them and of course photography does have a kind of very part of the photo indexicality thing is this a very powerful relation to the place if I take out my little iPhone now and take a picture here it's like directly related to this place and new people and and me being here at this time in a way that a poem about this place might not be in a way that a painting obviously needn't be I can make a painting of a place that's never existed you know just rehearsing the obvious thing so in a certain sense that in which part of the point about this is that the photographers have been most interesting at least to me or photographers precise you've experienced what Jim experiences in this very intense form the desire for the represented to be the work the desire for the place to be the work but when we were talking about Eggleston photographer I've always had kind of not I'm not fully seen I don't never loved Egleston but Jim said something very I thought useful useful for me which was contrasting that relation to place with a complete intensity of this artificial color a color which doesn't belong to any place in the world right there's no relation to well you don't this doesn't matter where you go you wants those colors it's part of what is going on in the glass and Jim's glass house photographs and it's the tension man right between this commitment to place and the field the work should be the place and then this intervention which doesn't ever make the place irrelevant but reduces the place to a kind of having a causal role in the production of this work but in a certain sense only a causal role that's for me the moment of form it's deeply associated not with sort of physical characteristics but with the intentionality of the artist that's a topic that hasn't come up today and would be a wide one but it's no accident that at the moment you know back there at the beginning of this photograph which gets be a prop a fter all if you were doing literary theory you would say that's the moment two or three years before that when anti intentional ISM the idea of the work of art does not mean what the author or the photographer or the artist intended to mean becomes absolute dogmatic in in literary theory and Ezra mein so to this day and I actually think that's a fundamental mistake it's kind of theoretical mistake and I gotta get them give you email me and I'll give you the references to read well don't all email me but no danger of that I'm sure but where that kind of discourse of anti intentionality becomes crucial and where what you see in Jim's work at this moment is precisely the assertion of the intentionality of of the artist and that assertion again does not depend upon the response of the beholder I mean it depends by the response behold of the beholder supposed to figure out what it is he's doing but the question of how the beholder feels about it is as it were a personal question and indeed one of the problems with our political responses to events like the things we've seen before is precisely that they are personal we have these strong feelings but our feelings have nothing whatsoever to do with the political situation and when Susie Linfield said before thought she was totally right she said it's one thing to respond to this stuff it's nothing to figure out what to do and the reason Brecht hated those photographs was because he thought there should because people tended to think there should be some direct response connection between our response and what you should do whereas the analysis is not an analysis of how we feel it's an analysis of actually what's going on in the world and the sense of what we should do is not again a sense of what we think is sort of the ethical thing to do it's a question of what you would do in relation to a particular political ideology one of the advantages of Marxism is that it enables you to sort of see your way through to ideologies and see what it means to act not on the basis of your your response but on the basis of what you believe to be true I mean it's a long way from Egleston and the glasshouse but part of what I'm interested in is that I think it's completely seamless in a certain way so if you were doing like a history of the political economy if you were doing what I tried to do for the 1880s and 1890s kind of political economy of art and political economy in the 1880s and 1890s if you're doing that for today it would make complete sense to put that graph those pictures that we saw this morning the horrible ones and Jim Wellings glasshouse up together to say they're part of the same moment part of the good things nat moment the possible alternatives to it but part also of the destructive parts of it so yeah I'm moving on but you know it seems like we're leaving the whole question of art in the dust because in a way you're you know arguing you're talking about photography and you know in Michael frites book about how creepy counts is art and in the when we you know began to looked at the yet another photography as art kind of title for this talk it seemed like and again someone today was mentioning to me that about museums don't need photography programs photography departments because it's kind of irrelevant in a way it seems like photography is such a distinct field that it's almost as distinct from the other visual arts as say architecture is from the other visual arts I mean I think you're making an argument for this incredible I mean the power of photography as both a political uh turrents and also as as something that almost stands outside of aesthetics I don't mean that I think that photography is I think it's important because it has been central to the history of art but you know but I disagree a year should I disagree I mean I think I think putting photography and art together as a mistake I think it's economically it makes sense to make big photographs to compete with paintings but this is where narrative photography I think is to quote Charlotte laughable yeah well the thing about it is that you know it's how many more big photographs are big photographs yeah it's hard to take seriously you're sort of disagreeing cuz like what do you do you're an artist to make photographs so you know I think there's a way in which you know what you I mean it's like the advantage of having a critic you know I mean I explained to you what they mean you could have your views but you should really keep them to yourself so looking this like I this is what I get paid to do when you get paid to do is that part I for me the issue is really that why photography has been crucially of interest now it needn't always be I mean look you could in an earlier version I tried to write something this was just too hard it was too short but you you know one thing would say is that the nut is that there are so many more important photographs and photographers in the last 30 years then there are any other form of artist that's non controversial with respect to painting probably non-controversial respect to sculpture more controversy with respect to performance art you have to have the argument but I think it's still nonetheless true that won't it wasn't always true it's not like that you know Jim and Jeff wall and Thomas Tama and all of my admire a great deal were like more talented than Walker Evans you know Jeff Wallace said quite rightly no one's ever been more talented than Walker Evans or Paul strand and we both started out in different ways loving it's rather than that photography as art has mattered more been more central to the history of art in the last 30 years than it was even though there were many great photographs made in the 20s 30s and 40s that won't always be the case the future photography you know it will it's gonna always be there be people doing these various things you your generation and the generations just after you I hope it extends down to Arthur because we're looking out for his reputation to you hit the number you're doing photography the moment when it really matters but I would be totally surprised that 50 years from now it mattered in the same way and a 50 years from now if someone was talking about the great photographers they'd be talking about the great photographers of the late nine 20th early 21st century and talking about their involvement in the things we've been describing today so I don't you know I'm you know from my standpoint the photographic universe is a universe which is of course technologically interesting to everybody but as a moment in the history of art it's on the one hand a very small moment but on the other hand the most important thing about it I mean if you're an art historian it's the thing that's been the most important thing to do so I you know there's a certain sense in which it would be useful to say well don't think of we should link photography and art but on the other hand if you couldn't link photography and art and this moment no one would care about either one we should have like discussion yes I mean I'm making the I'm making the I'm making the lightbulbs change just yeah questions please let the mics come to you question it back oh wow well he's getting a microphone there I just say we're looking we're looking for things for non sight both photographers and writers so it it would appear like anything else it's the content Photography is only good as its content my question is this if you can't link photography to art I'm fascinated by the pictures of Georgia O'Keeffe's unwarned skin most people don't know who Morris Graves is or that he was black Jasper Johns young Jasper Johns old Katharine Hepburn painted I photographed her paint set which looks like a painting actually I did it in tungsten film again I ask you isn't photography just as good as its content a lot of people are taking photography is art there's no content in my opinion it's garbage if the content is good don't you think it can be linked to art and certainly to document the artist him or herself garbage yeah a lot stressful strong but I I actually yeah I don't think I know I I don't I mean look I don't think that the content I think content is crucially important understanding any photograph I don't think the question of its content and what you said the last thing you said as a documentation of art I absolutely of course agree with that but I don't think content that is what the photograph is the photograph of has anything then to do with its value is art if you look at Jim's early photographs again I started using example but I know that work well and you're here if you look at the drape photographs the aluminum foil photographs then you look at the world I remember the first time going to his Studios Carl achromatic go to any artist studio his was very neat but very small he's a poor artist the time and looking at the piece of cloth that had been used to make these beautiful and increasingly large and kind of monumentally beautiful drape photographs it's a piece of cloth you know it's not it's not like a sunset photograph of a sunset is maybe beautiful at the sunsets beautiful it's not a photograph of a beautiful piece of cloth that's precisely the moment in which photography why doesn't beautiful no but photographs of murderers aren't necessarily are either all right but photographs you know it doesn't that's that it doesn't at all but that's the point of the sort of difference from you know Poe said we know what Poe thought was the most beautiful thing for poetry all poems should be about that all poems should be had the same thing the death of a beautiful woman he thought it's the most poetic thing there is and the book I'm writing right now is book called neoliberal aesthetics the death of a beautiful woman but the importance of the death of a beautiful woman if you think of it not if disconnect it now from actual dying and which post certainly did it's actually just the way in which a representation of something can produce something beautiful out of something whether or not it's beautiful that is the way in which the representation marks a kind of like how sisters famously said at one point the symbol is the murder of the thing when you begin to think in those terms that's when you get sort of interest of art and that's also for me where you get the contemporary politics of art yeah right why am I don't deny you that of the subject versus the picture because my feeling has always been that I basically could not care less about the subject and if it is a strong subject like the murder pictures then to me it it is more of a documentation than a work of art my feeling has always been that you know great painter could paint the grill on that speaker and it would be incredibly moving even if it is just the grill and speaker and I I think I heard some contradiction in self contradiction in what you were saying about form and what you're saying now about you know the sub the subject versus the actual picture and I'm not I guess that's my question is am i contradicting myself yes yeah no okay thanks thanks yeah I'd say that I there I do think I do think the subject matter is super-important I mean I don't think anybody I we would obviously have a kind of serious ethical problem if we thought that the photographer photographing that stoning was sort of like worried about like composition you know at the moment right that would be the point where you'd say no it's completely inappropriate to make a work of art out of that photograph but there's an important sense though in which I think it does matter what the subject of a photograph is it just doesn't it isn't determinative it isn't dispositive so it does matter that you're going to make photographs out of aluminum foil it matters differently if you're gonna make photographs out of glass houses and they're the relation to subject matter is importantly different there but it's never the thing that determines it and for me again I don't mean politics in general I mean the politics the last 30 years neoliberal politics the way we've begun to think of a politics which is not simply or primarily a politics of identity a politics of how we feel about each other a politics of anti-sexism anti racism and homophobia all of which are good things but which is a politics of class which as I said before has nothing to do with that we think about each other that's become emblem eyes Dan the idea of form and the possibility of form that's why a picture I wrote a piece on jeff wall called the politics of a good picture and it's about a political picture that wall makes but I could equally well have written a version of that piece with a different analysis of the photograph about one of Jim's pictures which aren't all political because what I'm suggesting is that the emergence of a kind of claim for photographic form is an important kind of counterbalance to a politics which is nothing but a politics of identity Walter why do you think this moment arises in the late 70s you know it's it's like fuko's episteme it's like there's this this is change that takes place in the 70s what do you think what's your sense of how you know form changes well I mean I think part of it is just you have a lot of people who want to get rid of form I mean if you mean Ross Krauss from the 70s and early 80s and then we're on Sierra from like yesterday they're actually making exactly the same argument about getting rid of form which I think it's kind of politically progressive I think they were wrong about that and they're both interested in the photograph as a way of doing it for you know for for Ross Krauss it was originally O'Sullivan some of the photographs I sold she's trying to get rid of absolutely and Rossi Aaron like 2010 is attacking freed for why do you three this Krauss was interested in in that issue because I actually think the sort of question of what a work of art was which had been so crucial to painting say through color field began to look unimaginable in painting and that's a problem of what form was began to be identified with the photograph yeah scars from sculpture that's right it becomes question of sculpture it's our historical question but the crucial thing is also it begins to matter you but what's going Margaret Thatcher is elected and because Ronald Reagan is elected that's like you know the 1980 part of this and because there are political changes which actually go both would that critique of form that Roz Kraus is making and with the assertion of form that then begins to emerge what we're done a very bunch of young photographers so why do those two things go together I don't know that would be a hard one but the whole point be up a stem for Co explain up in front thanks Jim I wondered if you could talk a little bit about this issue of form and photographic content on with respect to what it means for the medium to change so dramatically especially for you with the adoption of Photoshop and what does it mean to make you know so quote-unquote textualist photographs with something like Maya so I'd love to hear more about the intersection of medium form content well you know I go I swing both ways I think sometimes it doesn't doesn't really affect me at all it's it's you know to use that too based where it's another tool my concerns have been you know working through I mean I came out of a visual art background I studied you know painting and sculpture and video art so that those inform how I think about photography that is having a couple of different mediums so you know Maya seems like almost a sculpture me it's like working with sculpture working in three-dimensional form it's a so in one hand you know Photoshop I mean I guess would be radical say it doesn't really change much at all it gives me a kind of it allows me to do new things I can work in color I can never I could never work in color before because I couldn't manipulate it sufficiently so there's a way of technologies allowing me to do you know what I wanted the things that I'm interested in but any other hand you become as an artist you become energized by a different kind of material I think it's different for writers I don't think writers maybe you know you're now more excited about the internet and and changing you know the rewriting but in a way the typewriter didn't change writing as much as the forms that you know visual artists use and of course you can look at it in you know welding sculpture of all kinds of other media so I'd have to say at this point I don't really think about it as changing that much it's just a fascinating to work in Maya is fascinating for that textualist world because it shows me that one of the things that photography is primarily interested in or represents is the texture of things the texture of the world and so it's great to be able to do something that hat doesn't have that I was reading your interview in art in America the other day where you said that you were talking about origins and that everything that is being represented has some kind of an origin similarly to the way that there's a photographer behind every photo that is taken so I'd like to juxtapose what you just said about the Maya and the texture less forms that I'm not sure really have origins with this concept of a beginning or a source the quote was that when I look at a photograph and I think you know I'm not unique I'm sure most people who work in photography you can get a sense of the materials that were being used I think one of the when I read you know critics who described photography I'll give an example Cathy Opie her show was reviewed at the Orange County Museum a few years ago it was a survey show and Chris Knight talked mostly about the content of the pictures but I could see all of these different relationship suits have had to the camera to the materials she was using to her color sense you know the kinds of things that most people are sensitive and painting it's just the photos you know the most people don't aren't familiar with the way photographs are made as I'm sure most of the people in this room can look at a picture and see what kind of camera was used where that person's standing so this idea of where the photographer stands whether they're running when they take the picture whether they're on a tripod those sorts of issues are more visible to me as a photographer and there are things that I like to look at it I remember talking to Luke del hey about what kind of camera he used you know because I always like to ask people what sort of camera they use and he'd photographs in a lot of very intense parts of the world and I said what kind of he uses a 4×5 i said what kind of 4×5 do you use he said one that I can run with so that was the the idea of of a sensitive viewer looking at a picture can pull more out of it than that someone who's been perhaps not as familiar with the technology as a photography what are the things that hasn't been mentioned that that I have felt for for the you know beginning of when I started making pictures myself is the frustration with the flat piece of paper and what to do with that and I don't know what everybody else thinks but to me that's that's the biggest obstacle of all is that it is it is so limiting and so inevitably we try to use other tools in order to sort of combat that that very limited this sort of object that we're working with I I mean I think that's really a good statement though I mean it sort of brings back a sort of subtext of all this which be the sort of medium of specificity question you mean one of the things that defines a medium in a certain moment is precisely the frustrations that are produces and there's so sense of what it is one wants to do in relation to that and I think I mean I was pleased to meet you before cause I admired your work for a long time I'm glad to meet you sort of in public again now one of the things that's really interesting about your work is that you can see that frustration of work that is you don't always see it overcome but you can see the effort to overcome it so you can see and that would be part of what I meant earlier by form that is the sort of sense of what it is to produce not you know just a record something but a work and a work which has various kinds of changing but real limitations and to me that would be kind of you know central so that if you were looking again at the history of of art in the last 30 years if you look at the history of photography you're looking at the history of that an attempt series of different kinds of attempts to deal both with opportunities and limitations and that's what the history of form would look like and that history of form would also be if done right a kind of history of the politics not only of the photographer and not even primarily the photographer but of at the moment itself so it would not be incorrect but perhaps incomplete to say that another way of talking about form is to talk about materials yes talk about materials but not just about materialism so that's totally right materials would matter but and not as a materialism with that nomic remark maybe we should stop okay yeah thank you Jim and Walter