Sunday, March 25, 2012

Narrative Interventions in Photography

[Art by Simryn Gill, Photograph by Jonathan Teghtmeyer]

[Art by Carrie Mae Weems, Photograph by Jonathan Teghtmeyer]

I had the opportunity the week before last to visit the Getty Center in Los Angeles, where I happened across across an exhibit entitled, Narrative Interventions in Photography, that seemed to be right up the alley for our conversations around transliteracy. Works by three artists, Eileen Cowin, Carrie Mae Weems and Simryn Gill, are unified by the theme of telling a narrative through photography with critical reflection on the use of text.

Cowin's series, I See What You're Saying, uses books as a medium to create a subject for photography where the books are personified and tell a narrative through how they are positioned as opposed to what the words say. Gill uses paper with typed text as a medium to take the place of natural artifacts. For example, in one piece she cuts the paper into the shape of leaves, attaches them to a living plant and photographs it in a natural setting. Finally, Carrie Mae Weems, has etched text (and in one piece sheet music) onto glass that is placed over photos from the American slave trade in her exhibit, From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried. 

In terms of transliteracy, the pieces provide a great commentary on the role of narrative in a way that is not reliant on text. Yet at the same time, they use text as a key subject for their art which is principally done using the medium of photography. Not only are these artists effective at using multiple media, but they use them together in the same piece in a way that provides commentary on the different forms. While they are not forms of new media, they definitely qualify as pieces related to transliteracy.

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