The School of Hugeness

March 8, 2011

Below is (evidence of) the first decent work of art I ever made, a video with me in front of a gold curtain jumping off a ledge into cardboard water.  These pictures are better documentation than the actual (VHS!) video, and are a nice memorial both of VHS and of how I used to be not fat.

More to the point, though, I’m looking at old work now because of a quandary I came up with when thinking about a friend’s project, a digital installation that features a lot of still images of pristine architectural scenes.  With Gursky and Struth et al. the photo as object has become a manly thing, a masculinized pursuit: bigger, better, faster, and more precise, and the bigger the better and the more “clear” the better even though we all know any photo is just a slice, a lie.  But because my work is partly about what masculinity means right now and I find the School of Gursky anathema conceptually, where does that leave me, even if I had the equipment to produce something like Gursky or  Struth or Wall?  (Only Ruff seems to acknowledge the endgame of this in his abstract and jpgs series.)

The obvious reply is something intimate and imprecise, but if the masculinization of art photography follows Apollonian ideals are we moving towards tropes of femininity or a Dionysian ideal or both?  What I don’t want to do is collapse the work of Gursky et al. into simplemindedness even though Wall goes there and a lot of the acolytes of this school of hugeness are a little threadbare conceptually.   (Bigger and better but why?)   Instead I’m wondering how photography itself is a masculine practice, and how to subvert that, and what that subversion means.

Small blurry photos:


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