Image Transfer, Artforum.com
"Image Transfer: Pictures in a Remix Culture" at Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA
Originally published on Artforum.com
As the title of this group exhibition asserts, today's open source visual culture treats pictures—whether found, manipulated, translated into another medium, or generated by the artist—as just another material resource. Where the work of the Pictures generation sought to teach viewers to read images critically, the twelve artists here are similarly instructive, demonstrating how to deploy images with culturally aware reflexivity. Importantly, nearly all of them were born in the mid-1970s: old enough to have come of age before the Internet, but young enough to have spent the majority of their adult lives online. Thus the act of dislodging images from their original contexts—for aesthetic ends or as shorthand signifiers—is second nature, but tempered by historical perspective. Though all the work showcases this generational vantage, the most illuminating pieces explicitly comment on the psychological implications of living in today's eminently visual culture.
In I arrive when I am foreign (Centennial Tin), 2006, Erika Vogt creates a space of fantastic self-involvement. The piece is a large-scale print of a video still, in which Vogt faces away from the viewer, holding a camera behind her back with its lens pointed down, and snapping a picture. Beneath her, a life-size photograph of the artist responds with a vexing near-symmetry: In that image within an image, she lies on her back, holding a camera at her waist that is taking a flash photograph of her upright double. The spatial inconsistency of the ostensible mirror image suggests there are disembodying consequences to the ubiquitous representation of self and others. Amanda Ross-Ho's Camera (Aerial View), 2008, a series of mirrored domes installed on the ceiling of each room, implicates the viewer in this lust for a reflected and serially documented self. Though viewers assume that their movement through the space is recorded via unseen surveillance, these domes merely reflect—which hardly prevents viewers from peering up inquisitively, or smiling eagerly for the imagined camera.