----- Original Message -----
From: "Michael Szpakowski" <firstname.lastname@example.org
> I can't see that the
> substance [of Ivan's work, Fragile] is different - Ivan is using images of
> people who have been detained by the US government
> without any recourse to any sort of law, subjected to
> humiliating and degrading treatment and what one could
> call either pressure or torture.
I'm interested in how images work, how we use them and how we can use them.
I don't quite understand how images that we assume to be of dead and
injured people, and that we assume to be of people killed very recently
(though Joseph may well have pulled images from some historic massacre for
all we really know, or even be using images of his friends and family play
acting dead) are the same in substance as images of shrouded and manacled
people that we can easily recognise as being of a specific time, place and
action (though of course these could also be my friends acting out the
scene, how would we know?).
In what way is the substance the same?
1. Images of people used without their knowledge or permission.
2. Said images used by western 'artists' in the furtherance of their own
3. These images are all of people who are not from the western world.
These are undeniable, but don't get us very far.
4. It is abusive to use images of powerless people in this way.
5. It furthers the agenda of the dominating west to use these images in this
6. It's bad art or at least bad practice to use images in this way.
These are moot. They may be starting points for criticism, but they are more
to do with politics or ethical standpoints than to do with art.
There are probably more ways in which use of these images make the substance
of the pieces the same, but I can't go that far.
In essense I'm trying to point out that it doesn't make good art criticism
to bring ethical or political points to bear, even though it may make us
> Actually, despite Ivan's protestations, one of the
> ways that the piece works for me is that it reminds of
> the *fragility* of those human beings, those lives, in
> the face of the might if the US state, and therefore
> it does read to me to some extent like a "protest
Well, it is called Fragile for a bunch of reasons. I try to make work that
has a bunch of layers, and hopefully some that I haven't gone into. I was
aware of the fragility of the people in the image, in fact that was almost
certainly what started the piece and what sparked its title. As for being a
protest piece, I would like to think all my work is protest work. In fact,
one thing that I spend a lot of time pondering is where the sensible line is
between overt protest and art. I mean, I would hate to make a direct
political point in the same way as I would hate to make a simply pretty
image. But I try to subsume the protest in the work, to make it fight for
air. And what am I protesting about? The fact that we have to live, that we
live in an unfair world, that we are hypocritical about it, that there is no
sense to it, that we all have to die yet we fight death. I believe that the
personal is political but I also believe in a load of existentialist stuff,
because it eases my thinking.
> I'm not being remotely disingenuous here when I say
> I'm genuinely interested in what people think; after
> the initial spat I think it's been a valuable
> discussion and I entirely endorse Eryk's point that we
> should think about and discuss critically the work we
> see more.
I enjoy the robust discourse and I try to be civil at all times while being
robust in my argument :-)