"We're not coming back to the same art scene we left in March." This was said during a conversation between the New York-based Guggenheim Museum curator Nancy Spector and Asar Raza.
Spector, who has curated a number of leading exhibitions at the museum, talked about galleries and art initiatives that will not survive the crisis. It is a harsh truth Spector presents, but we may not continue as we have done. After photos of the clear water in the canals of Venice went viral, we should consider whether the biennials should return there, and whether we should continue with all the various art fairs around the world.
Green works with queer identity, takes black-and-white portraits – and is compared today with Diane Arbus.
Raza's conversation with Spector was also uplifting; she talked about exhibitions Matthew Barney and Tino Seghal, and a little about their upcoming exhibition next year, which reflects on this crisis we are in. It was a pleasure to get so close to the curator, right from her own living room and into mine.
Raza has founded the newly created web platform Home Cooking in collaboration with Marianna Simnett, and he also invited for talks with the curators Hans Ulrich Obrist and Myriam Ben Salah. The latter is ready to take over as director of The Renaissance Society in Chicago after Norwegian Solveig Øvstebø, who comes to Oslo to lead Astrup Fearnley Museum.
The Home Cooking platform is one of several initiatives that have emerged during the corona crisis. Several museums have invited virtual guided tours in their collections and exhibitions, and various publishing houses are inviting weekly discussions about photo books.
The work is about power, femininity, technology, the body and transcendence.
Henie Onstad Art Center received corona support Fritt ord to launch their Art Channel. The Photo Gallery launched the 2.0 version of the Let's Talk about Images conversation program, which they arranged in 2018. Susan Bright has given several lectures on her exhibitions, including Feast for your Eyes – which is currently being shown at Hasselblad in Gothenburg.
Several critical texts have emerged about the commercial superficiality of the digital rooms, but for me it became a lament that I could sit in front of the tablet every night and surf around the home of photographers I have long been curious about.
Ethan James Green
An example is American fashion photographer Ethan James Green, who published a book at New York-based publisher Aperture last year. He works with queer identity, takes black-and-white portraits – and is compared today with Diane Arbus.
He previously worked as a model, but would rather work behind the camera to tell visual stories of his generation. His first monograph, Young New York (Aperture, 2019), contains a number of strong portraits of young New Yorkers. The portraits are vulnerable and honest; Green comes very close to the young people.
His practice is also commercial, and during the conversation with Aperture he showed fashion reports he has made for various magazines. He has been shipped to India and Mexico – where he could choose which models he would work with, a luxury that is few and far between. His photographs extend the fashion genre – images with multiple meanings beyond just fashion clothes.
British Photoworks: Maisie Cousins
Several of these virtual conversations have provided a sense of unity and a much needed intellectual injection. They are important for photographers who are involved with photo books or exhibitions. British Photoworks has invited several virtual book launches, including one conversation with British Maisie Cousins about her latest book Rubbish, Dipping Sauce, Grass, Peony, Bum. Cousins says the work is about power, femininity, technology, the body and transcendence.
Her advertising-like close-ups of, for example, body parts, flowers or food have long been a hit on Instagram, and she herself says that no one would have discovered her art if it were not for the internet. She also added that social media expands her audience and makes art more accessible – precisely at a time when the British government is cutting support for art and culture.
MACK Books: Shirley Baker
MACK Books invited writer and curator Lou Stoppard to tell about their new book, Shirley Baker. In the attic of Baker's daughter, Stoppard came across boxes of unpublished photos taken by Baker. The street photographer, who should have received more attention while she was alive, took pictures from morning to night. These new images, according to Stoppard, give an insight into her work process, and show how Baker's privacy and working life slid into each other.
Apropos photographers who could get more attention in their time: My favorite of all the virtual walks was Printed Matters presentation of the exhibition Sarah Charlesworth Image Language. Charlesworth's large and consistent photographic production, nevertheless, was never as well known as her contemporary American photographers from "The Picture Generation". While engaged in how photography affects and shapes our everyday lives and identities, Charlesworth was concerned with the image itself – as she described her work as "an engagement with a problem rather than a medium".
The presentation and several of the conversations mentioned here were still online. We may not return to the art scene we left, but the digital presence of art has been successfully enhanced.