Link to Carrie Mae Weems work
The text of Rituals and Revolutions weems016.pdf
Link to Ellen Rothenberg
I found a small exhibition catalogue published by the Boston University Art Gallery. It featured the work of Carrie Mae Weems and Ellen Rothenberg. The exhibition titled Telling Stories, examines the concept of memory and history. The exhibition challenges the idea of the master narrative and the role ideal historian as the impartial observant. The photographs and narratives portray how history has shaped the identity of women through oppression and how the master narrative has silenced the stories being told by women from different classes and the third world. The role of Carrie Mae Weems and Ellen Rothenberg is to interrogate, resist and manipulate what we perceive to be history.
Ellen Rothenberg's Beautiful Youth shows propaganda photographs used by the Nazi to urge young women into serving the third Reich. The construction of identity of women is demonstrated how the publications use women by their physical appearance, showing them strong and youthful. A nationalistic pride and joy to serve their country is demonstrated and demanded from to the women, and the use of the stereotypical Aryan woman who represents beauty, charm, nurture and empathy is used as a mechanism to persuade. The photographs are seductive by showing their smiling mouths, smooth young faces and white skin. The propaganda images aim to show that even at the midst of war, life can remain stable if women do their part. Rothenberg enlarges these photographs and crops them. The graininess, fragmentation and enlargement of the photographs reveal the Nazi construction of the ideal woman. By cropping the image just to the tasked being done, Rothenberg emphasizes the underlined relationship between the happy servant woman to her country and the country's agenda. There's also a worktable with severed hands and fingers, and aprons hanged on the wall. The worktable is aimed to represent the production of women, and the severed body part is the fetishization of women and the aprons are meant to be seen as the natural role of women in Third Reich.
Carrie Mae Weems
Ritual and Revolution is a series of digital photographs printed in muslin cloth. The photographs depicted on the cloth range from classical temples, African slave sites, European Palaces and Maya ruins. As the viewer walks through the exhibition, they are supposed to feel the vastness of the accomplished happened in those sites, yet the struggles of the conquered had to endure in those sites. Weems uses her voice to become the narrative and the speaker of the silenced. Weems uses herself as a witness to reclaim what she sees the great moments of history. Weems becomes the voice of the survivals using the words "I was with you..in the ancient ruins of time...when you stormed the Bastille &...in the hideous mise en scene of the middle passage..In the death camps, etc." She continues with " I saw everlasting death...I saw you and your father..I saw your fear of pleasure, etc." The gaze of the artist becomes our historical lens to the buried stories untold.
The catalog is simple, small and printed with a soft cover. The catalog has everything that I think makes a catalog successful. Good, detailed images of the work in the exhibition with the labels of information. The introduction essay written by the curator gives a great background of the artists' work and how they started to be interested in the subject of memory and history. It also gives background and key information of the history of what the work is about. The essay is easy to read, well written, and it explores the theories and artist intentions of the work. It is not redundant and gives the necessary information to understand the work. I supposed it is also easy to like the catalog if you already like the artist's work.
Lighter, Wolfgang Tillman
Catalog Scan: Tillmans.pdf
The catalog for the exhibition Lighter by Wolfgang Tillman exhibits his retrospective work of over the last 20 years; since the beginning of his career when he was making photographs for magazines of the punk scene and street culture to his Lighter and Paper Drop series. The catalog includes installation photographs taken by Tillman himself and by other hired photographers by the museums. As a result of this, you see his photographs installed in different environments, and how the environment affects the read of the work. It is a large book of about 400 pages, hard cover; it including three opening essays about Tillman's work. The topics range from the concept of the photograph as the object itself, the way Tillman treats the space with his photographs and what happens when the photograph is liberated from the frame. The writing is dense, sometimes can be very abstract, and at times difficult to follow, yet if you know Tillman's work you can somewhat grasp the concepts and ideas of what the essays are talking about.
The majority of the photographs on the book include installation photographs of the work. There are some few photographs that shows the photograph itself. This shows how much the space is part of the actual work. It also shows the relationship of the photographs to each other, and how one affects the other. The amount of work on the book is overwhelming, and they all start to blend the more you look at the book. I like Tillman's work, and I like the book as an idea. Yet, I think a much better approach would had been to include the installation shots, but also include prints of his actually work as well. Both would have made each other stronger, since his photographs (especially his latest work) are very formal, and show already the photograph as an object. In this book form, the photographs become an object, represented as objects printed in an object. (The book) If I had gone to the exhibition, I wouldn't have felt necessary to buy the catalog, because I had already experienced seeing the work with the space. The idea of over and over representation of this idea seems redundant.