Xmas Can of Worms

December 16, 2009

I got asked by a MKE gallerist to come up with something spiritually-themed for a show I don’t know much about, so I went down to the dollar store and bought these.  They make me very uncomfortable.  Because: while I shot them to snap into focus how “white” Xmas and spirituality often are when talked about in the abstract, does taking pictures of borderline racist kitsch implicate me somehow?  This is a question I am really asking: please chime in.

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3 Responses to “Xmas Can of Worms”

  1. AdamFeldmeth Says:

    Wouldn’t buying them implicate you firstly? Or is the rational that because they were bought as nothing more than material for photographs compress the gestures of spiritually-themed request, dollar store search, $4 spent, and photographs taken into a single gesture?

    I’m side-tracking away from your question a bit, but looking at your last n number of posts that follow this process I outlined above (albeit the initial spiritually-themed request) I’m more curious about the economic implications of the “studio shots” such as in the case of our angel friends in this post where the objects are purchased to be photographically captured vs. the photographs of the eclectic thrift store shelves of a couple posts back that point to the potential donation sites of this amassing allotment of tchotchkes your building.

    Where does it all this “raw” material go after the photo?

    –Buying from dollar stores, donating to thrift stores–

    • Nicholas Says:

      Right now it’s all going into a plastic storage tub. I haven’t thought beyond that, because my habit is the opposite of acculumation: get rid of things, including photos, in vast quantities, and then later regretting it. I have, however, been watching the cable TV show Hoarders and don’t want to head that way either.

      But as far as the economic implications go, it comes down to a question of use value: I am not using these things for their intended purpose–to sew a costume or festoon a mantle or wrap a gift–but using them as props, so to speak. Which is a different kind of use value of consumerism than buying something because you want it–I’m buying these things because I want to photograph them, of course, but part of this series of tchotchke-collection has to do with turning a profit. You can profit by looking good in a nice sweater or by giving someone an elegantly wrapped gift, but I’m talking about cash in my bank account.

  2. Will Says:

    I don’t see presentation as endorsement, though a lot of people do
    (leaving me to explain that just because one reads a book doesn’t mean
    they endorse the views therein). With spiritual kitsch, a neutral
    examination in an art context that raises the question of why it’s being
    presented, as you’ve done here, gives viewers a more individual and neutral
    experience. It’s not the same as shooting them broken into pieces or
    surrounded by glowing light above sleeping children, which would
    provoke strong reactions for and against. Given how knee-jerk and emotional
    absolutely everything spiritual is, here you’ve done about all you can to
    present the topic in a thought-provoking way.

    So, short answer: no, you’re not implying endorsement or critique, but
    people who walk around with these screens in front of their eyes will take
    it that way. Sorry if that’s no help at all, but I believe it’s true.


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