The field trip to the ICA was a very enjoyable experience – it has been a while since I’ve had the time to enjoy contemporary museum exhibits at my own pace. I liked quite a few of the exhibits, with my favorites being Grosse Fatigue by Camille Henrot, View of Harbor by John Rafman, Safe Conduct by Ed Atkins, Nudes lox 22 by Thomas Ruff, and Still, Five Hooded Men with Seated Man by Seth Price.
Continuing the theme of the reading “In Defense of the Poor Image,” I dug a little into the last two pieces.
Nudes lox 22 – Thomas Ruff
This photo was part of Ruff’s Nudes series, which consisted of images taken from pornographic scenes, but blown up to obscure the details of the scene due to the low quality of the initial images. This style embraces the “poor” quality of scenes by making them a main feature of his work. Though the details are blurred, the contents of the scene are quite obvious to viewers, who subconsciously resolve the scene in their heads. In my opinion, the works would send a much different message if the details were able to be rendered clearly, relying less on the ability of the viewer to piece together the image based on past knowledge.
Parallels can also be drawn to his cassini series, where he took a similar approach to photographs of Saturn, enlarging images from the Cassini spaceflight, and abstracting them to make it less immediately obvious what is being presented to the viewer.
Five Hooded Men with Seated Man – Seth Price
This work jumped out at me because of the three-dimensional nature of it. Price takes a flat scene of a poorly-shot image of an execution, and through screen-printing it on clear film, gives it added depth, making it jump out of the wall, towards the viewer. It is only upon further inspection that the viewer discovers that the scene is that of an execution – the abstraction of the image distracts the otherwise shocking subject. I liked how these abstractions are compared to the general desensitization of the public, as it resonated well with me. It made me think about how some of the first movies made viewers puke due to the perceived realism, whereas I can easily find videos of executions, rapes, tortures, and other horrific subjects, and view them without a physical response beyond shock, awe, and disgust.
Looking into some of Price’s other works, I was immediately drawn into his use of repetition and texture, in a way that is evocative of Japanese patterned textiles. Such themes are also present in his fashion line collaboration. Though less reminiscent of Japan, his work does evoke a certain sense of conformity and sterility that might also be found in Japanese work culture.