new book collecting images of contemporary art installations
(tried to post elsewhere, but there are bugs)
Looking at display, images of contemporary art in London galleries
There was a discussion about the word 'display' occurring in the title of this book. In presupposing, in the management or handling of artworks, what are traditionally skills--works are disposed in some sort of way carefully within an exhibition space; that's just part of what it is to mount an exhibition--we paid quite real skills not much regard. But the use of 'display'1 (again) indicated our consciousness of a degree in which that handling or manipulation of artworks, and within artworks, in spaces of their actual presentation, acknowledged something particular and differently but orthodoxly definite in the progress of contemporary art including relational expectations in situations in which artists conceived of their works being shown, displayed.
For the editor, who is a curator, there is a sense of that kind of self-consciousness as now part of a repertoire or regime: he would (and does) carefully phrase this consciousness in terms of certain ideological commitments. This type of commitment is in itself a backbone of a general enterprise encompassing the production of artworks by artists that carries further interlinked political/ideological concerns/anxieties into an affective relation between particular implementations or manifestations and curating as critique.2 It would be natural that some of those concerns, mediated by the availability of images and recent history of London exhibitions, informed the choices of individual images in the book.
The images reproduced in this book had a function of documenting for quite specific purposes the works they show. They probably do that with varied success. Of course this book does not propose that in organising this visual material one directly effects any actual changes or even heightening in the perception of the materials represented; though, again, of course, having made a change to the use of the images by organising that use in arranging proximities, one sees at least that change, perhaps asks why things were situated within the book in particular ways. Or asks why the book exists. Essentially, the book should be seen as aligning the practices of the photographic documentation of artworks with some shifts in the general pattern of expectations of artworks. These shifts are probably themselves indicators of the sorts of patterning of responses that contemporary artworks have come seem to indicate anyway. The organisation of images in Looking at display, like its predecessor, Display, is part of that process.
Matthew Arnatt, London, August 2009
1 Like Pablo Lafuente's 2005 Display, recent installation photographs from London galleries and venues, this book
follows a basic template. The editor requests that galleries or institutions provide installation photographs of recent exhibitions, then the editor selects the images appearing in the book. The editor orders, as they appear in the book,
a final selection of images. Apart from niceties: relative sizes of images, positioning of credits etc., that's it.
2 Lafuente sets up the ideological background differently in the Introduction of his book.
The book required the cooperation of a number of people, they are all thanked.
Looking at display, images of contemporary art in London galleries, edited by David Bussel. Published by Rachmaninoff's (www.rachmaninoffs.com), October 2009.