Wednesday, June 02, 2010

What’s in that crate?

This time we have resorted to our regular mystery crate theme as a thin excuse to tell you about an exhibition. At the Moderna Museet in Malmo in Sweden, we saw a smart idea for an exhibition of art; an exhibition with no original art in it at all. 

The crates (which for some unarticulated curatorial reason were stacked in the middle of the gallery) had been used to transport the exhibition Diane Arbus: a printed retrospective, 1960-1971 from museum to museum. The exhibition displayed her work as it had been reproduced in magazines, newspapers and other printed forms. The effect was compelling with its combination of functional journalism and Arbus’s own relentless gaze. Often surrounded or underlined by text (sometimes written by Arbus) many of the images gained even more authority through these direct narrative connections. 

This is an exhibition format made in heaven for photographers like Ans Westra, Marti Friedlander and Peter Black. It also nailed the anachronism of the ‘is photography art?’ conversation that still has some play in New Zealand even today. Everyone can relax, the votes have been counted: photography is art when it’s art, in the same way that drawing, painting and carving aren’t art when they're not.
Images: Crates and reproduced work of Diane Arbus