Monday, December 22, 2008

Archive Fever

“Archive Fever: Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art - Art - Review - New York Times

a lovely bit on the work of an exceptional human i had the pleasure to meet once, fazal sheikh.

"And in the show’s most startling example of archival accumulation, the German artist Hans-Peter Feldmann has filled a room with the framed front pages of 100 international newspapers — from Paris, Dubai, Sydney, Seoul, New York and elsewhere — printed on Sept. 12, 2001. Questions flood in: Why were certain pictures of the devastated Twin Towers used in certain places? Why does Osama bin Laden’s face appear on some pages and not on others? And how is the story reported in languages we cannot read; Arabic, say, or Persian? And what could readers who didn’t read English know of our reports? To enter this archive is to relive recent history. I was reluctant to go in, but then I couldn’t leave.

Mr. Feldmann’s work, made for this exhibition, is monumental. Fazal Sheikh’s “Victor Weeps: Afghanistan” series (1997) is, in almost every way, not. Each of the four pictures in the show is of a hand holding a passport-size photographic male portrait. Statements by the family members who hold the photos tell us that they are portraits of Afghan mujahedeen fighters who had died or disappeared during battles with occupying Russian forces in the 1980s.

Although the portraits are in each case held loosely, even tenderly, the words they evoke are passionate. These little pictures — routine, unexceptional, of a kind turned out in countless numbers — may be the only visual link between the dead and their survivors. Here the archival is profoundly personal.

But do Mr. Sheikh’s beautiful pictures, or the photographs within them, represent some special, easily approached corner of the great archive that surrounds, shapes and even overwhelms us? Do they convey , for once, some comprehendible truth? No, just the ordinary one: When it comes to full disclosure, art never, ever speaks for itself, as Mr. Enwezor’s eloquent exhibition tells us in many ways."


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home