An Instrument of Coercive Persuasion

Marilyn Minter Food Porn #51 1990

“When I think about my work, I mostly think about the paradox that goes on when you look at these images,” Minter says. “How much pleasure glamour gives us but at the same time, how we know we’ll never look like that, and even [models] don’t look like that. There’s this constant distortion that’s happening between all of us—men and women—there’s a sense of failure. But at the same time, all of this pleasure.” [Marilyn Minter in conversation with Cait Munro]

“…images trigger mimetic desires and make people want to become like the products represented in them. In this view, hegemony infiltrates everyday culture and spreads its values by way of mundane representation. Image spam is thus interpreted as a tool for the production of bodies, and ultimately ends up creating a culture stretched between bulimia, steroid overdose, and personal bankruptcy. This perspective—one of more traditional Cultural Studies—views image spam as an instrument of coercive persuasion as well as of insidious seduction, and leads to the oblivious pleasures of surrendering to both.” [Hito Steyerl on The Spam of the Earth]

Alfred Stieglitz Georgia O’Keeffe 1918

“As revolutionary as living out of wedlock was in 1918 (the couple married in 1924), a 1921 survey of Stieglitz’s photographs, including 45 pictures of O’Keeffe, many of them nudes, transformed the two of them into the equivalent of an art world Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Stieglitz said, “When I make a photograph I make love.” O’Keeffe, who later recalled the “heat and excitement” of the photo sessions, opined that “nothing like them had come into our world before.”
Yet the same nude photos that made Stieglitz famous triggered a backlash against O’Keeffe. Forever after, her work was seen in purely sexual terms. “When people read erotic symbols into my paintings they’re really talking about their own affairs,” O’Keeffe said. Still, the sexualized misconceptions of her work devastated her. “I almost wept,” she wrote of one review in 1921.” [Jerry Saltz on Georgia O’Keeffe]

“This is why many people by now walk away from visual representation. Their instincts (and their intelligence) tell them that photographic or moving images are dangerous devices of capture: of time, affect, productive forces, and subjectivity. They can jail you or shame you forever; they can trap you in hardware monopolies and conversion conundrums, and, moreover, once these images are online they will never be deleted again. Ever been photographed naked? Congratulations—you’re immortal. This image will survive you and your offspring, prove more resilient than even the sturdiest of mummies, and is already traveling into deep space, waiting to greet the aliens.
The old magic fear of cameras is thus reincarnated in the world of digital natives. But in this environment, cameras do not take away your soul (digital natives replaced this with iPhones) but drain away your life. They actively make you disappear, shrink, and render you naked, in desperate need of orthodontic surgery. In fact, it is a misunderstanding that cameras are tools of representation; they are at present tools of disappearance. The more people are represented the less is left of them in reality.” [Hito Steyerl on The Spam of the Earth]

David Reed #252 1987

“In works such as #310 and #328 (1992 and 1993), marks modeled with strong value contrast with monochrome marks that emphasize the texture of a brush. Because everything is relative, some of these marks seem to refer to touch and some to vision. Around 1990, Reed discovered that a certain kind of photographic effect had begun to figure much of his work (this was pointed out to him by critics and friends). This similarity to photography pushes his work still closer to vision, and away from touch, even though the resemblance is, in these works, an illusion, as all the marks are equally handmade, made with paint and not photography. Still, if we had no photography these would look much different — it is the implicit ghost haunting these paintings, rather than a real presence.” [Katy Siegel on David Reed]

“Mirroring, reflections on, reflecting in are gestures made literal through Reed’s digital insertions, but also point back to his thought processes and the formal influences that these filmic narratives have had on his abstractions. This is a strategy Reed has used before, having previously inserted his paintings into the Alfred Hitchcock film Vertigo (1958) in Two Bedrooms in San Francisco, Judy’s Bedroom (1992) and Scottie’s Bedroom (1994). These insertions represent another move by the artist to emphasize how the world outside painting––architecture, film, popular culture––influences his abstractions. The idea that paintings can absorb or be influenced by the environment around them is one that is in direct contrast to the notions of formal purity espoused by the influential postwar critic Clement Greenberg, who championed Abstract Expressionist artists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Greenberg demanded that abstract painting seek to solely reference its own formal qualities, rather than respond to the characteristics of the space and world around it. Reed began working in a period in New York when Greenberg’s ideas were still highly influential, and to this day his theories and writings serve as reference points for Reed to work against. In the context of Greenberg’s orthodox ideas, the fact that Reed’s paintings absorb a television program’s color palette or lighting effects represents another form of vice, or aesthetic sin.” [Tobias Ostrander on David Reed]

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