you're reading...
A New History of Photography, Invisible City, Oculus, The Geometry of Innocence, Uncategorized

Valences of Context

I’ve written an essay entitled “Infinite Stupidities.” The title comes directly from this Mark Pagel video found on Edge.org. My essay appears as two guest blog entries for the esteemed and accomplished critic A.D. Coleman on his blog Photocritic International. I guess there’s a little bit to unravel to understand the context of my essay. But you’ll find it all there in hyperlinks. The text centers around my (failed) attempt to get people in an online forum to read and (intelligently) discuss a talk A.D. Coleman gave October of 2011 at the Hotshoe gallery in London on the diminishing role of the photography critic in the popular press.

Both A.D. Coleman and I think the marginalizing of critical writing on photography in the popular press has certain implications and will have effects on a particular kind of photographic practice.

The larger discussion raised here are the effects of an increasingly fragmented discussion in a media environment that operates more on a networked basis rather than a top-down approach that traditional media once provided. With the loss of the authority of the popular critical voice, whither lay context for an uniformed populace? What happens to history (and knowledge thereof) and what exactly constitutes the context that a body of artwork now appears in? Histories seem to be implied or lost altogether in our clipped forum and blog entries—and contexts for discussions become increasingly relational and contextual in a place (the Internet) that has no implicit context. Perhaps our discussions have always appeared in relational contexts, but now the context of our Internet digressions are evermore so slippery with the destruction of any physical context in our atomized communities. Our discussions now seem to exist solely in a relational cloud or fog. History no longer is so linear or didactic (but should it ever have been? Were not its didactic qualities the root source of conflict among so many disagreeing parties?). And to fall into the reverie of metaphor: histories and the contexts for any understanding seem to act more like clouds that move like storms over the landscape of time. They blow this way and that depending on where one stands only to eventually blow over. Some of us are affected by the squalls, and for others it has no effect depending on where one happens to be and the source (or lack of) one’s perspective. Histories and context and the meaning they once provided—easily lost and fleeting as they always have been—seem more easily lost (or fleetingly retrieved) in our networked environment.

Infinite Stupidities:
pt 1: http://nearbycafe.com/artandphoto/photocritic/?p=10954
pt 2: http://nearbycafe.com/artandphoto/photocritic/?p=11107

About kenschles

Ken Schles is the author of Invisible City (1988; reprint 2015 and 2016), The Geometry of Innocence (2001), A New History of Photography: The World Outside and the Pictures In Our Heads (2007), Oculus (2011) and Night Walk (2015 and 2016). His work has been nominated for the Deutsche Börse Prize, exhibited by The Museum of Modern Art, noted by the New York Times Book Review, cited in histories of the medium (Parr/Badger, Auer & Auer, 10x10 American Photobooks) and issued by some of the foremost publishers of our time (Steidl, Hatje Cantz, Twelvetrees Press). They're considered “intellectual milestones in photography” (Süddeutsche Zeitung), “hellishly brilliant” (The New Yorker). Ken Schles’ work is included in private and public collections such as The Museum of Modern Art, The Rijksmuseum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museo d"Arte Contemporanea (MACRO) Testaccio Museum, and more than 100 other museum and library collections world-wide. 
 Ken Schles is a NYFA Fellow. http://www.kenschles.com


2 thoughts on “Valences of Context

  1. I, unfortunately, could not attend that talk, but the “storm” of history is somewhat lost on those entering the photographic discourse during the last decade. People do not care or seem to want to know what came before or what might have lead to the creation or discovery of certain genres within the greater context of photography. The seemingly steady stream of “selfies” and lack of knowledge or caring of history and craft is so prevalent, it makes one think that the majority of image creators are idiots. No intelligent sense of writing will change this, except for the few that take the time to actually read….. Being “connected”, “networked”, means something else entirely today.

    Posted by Keith Goldstein | June 5, 2014, 10:03 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: