June 28, 2002–January 12, 2003
During the late 1960s and the 1970s, a significant paradigm shift occurred within postwar visual culture: photography and the moving image were absorbed into critical contemporary art practices. In particular, they were used to record ephemeral or performative events, or to render visible conceptual systems for creating work. Moving Pictures, which focuses primarily on art of the last decade, proposes that the extensive use of reproducible mediums in today’s art has its roots in this formative period.
Throughout the 1970s, artists such as Marina Abramović, Vito Acconci, Bruce Nauman, and Robert Smithson employed photographic strategies to extend and test traditional, medium-specific boundaries such as painting, sculpture, and fine-art photography. Additionally, the new, relatively inexpensive and portable technology of video and its unique ability to provide instant playback, live and closed-circuit installations as well as multichannel configurations allowed artists such as Nam June Paik to examine issues of representation and image making to an unprecedented degree. Film as installation further expanded the conceptual and aesthetic parameters of the moving image.
The presence of photography, film, and video in the most radical art practices of this period corresponded to the ubiquity of these mediums in all forms of popular representation: television, advertising, cinema, and print journalism. Artists turned to these mediums—which bridged such discrete categories as mass culture and high art, technology and culture—in order to contest the autonomous art object and transgress the traditional categories of modernism. Photography, film, and video functioned as means for achieving these goals, enabling artists to create works that privileged information or documentary evidence over personal expression, or conversely called into question notions of objective recorded reality, underscoring the dominance of mass media and its often skewed representations. For many early feminist artists such as Ana Mendieta and Hannah Wilke, these mediums represented yet-to-be-claimed territory, offering them new means with which to render their own subjective experiences.
By the end of the 1970s, artists such as Cindy Sherman turned to photography as a vehicle through which to critique photographic representation itself. While this practice came to define much 1980s postmodern art, its legacy for the 1990s was essentially the license to indulge in photographic fantasy, image construction, and cinematic narrative. Many artists, including Olafur Eliasson, Elger Esser, Andreas Gursky, Jörg Sasse, and Hiroshi Sugimoto, freely manipulate the empirical world and their representations of it, processing their subject matter through preordained conceptual systems or using digital processes to alter their images. Others, like Matthew Barney, Gregory Crewdson, Anna Gaskell, and Sam Taylor-Wood, stage fictional narratives, inventing entirely new cosmologies for the camera. Still others, like Gabriel Orozco, intervene directly in the environment, subtly shifting components of the found world and establishing a quiet presence in it, while some artists construct entire architectural environments for the camera lens.
If the art of the 1970s was marked by temporal, performative practices and that of the 1980s was distinguished by its relationship to critical theory, art of the 1990s witnessed a reversal of methodologies with the widespread resuscitation of time-based, process-oriented artistic practices and their attendant use of photography and the moving image. Such work is often ephemeral in nature. The use of video and film—time-based mediums par excellence—has proliferated in the last twelve years, as evidenced in the work of Barney, Stan Douglas, William Kentridge, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Steve McQueen, Shirin Neshat, John Pilson, Pipilotti Rist, and Gillian Wearing.