In Plato’s cave allegory we are bound and can only see images of the shadows cast by statues of real things. As we free our minds, we first discover that we are looking at mere images, shadows. Next we discover that the shadows are cast not by the real but by statues, imitations of the ideals which they represent. Only when we emerge from the cave do we discover the world of real things.
with apologies to Joseph Kossuth
The day after we went to Paris Photo we went to the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris and got tickets to the Zoe Leonard exhibit, Al río / To the River, recommended by classmates who had seen it the day before. It’s an immense show that goes on and on for rooms and rooms, vast expanses of white space, perhaps conveyed by the images above. We arrived late morning and were, initially, the only ones there, other than the guards. I was almost more impressed at the opportunity to wander through the vast, empty white space of the museum (reminiscent of my trips to NY’s Metropolitan as a kid, when it was often so empty you could go bowling without disturbing anyone) than I was by the photographs.
The images look at the US/Mexico border area, as loosely defined by the Rio Grande/Bravo. On each wall is a series of pictures, looking at a particular scene, over the course of time (seconds, or minutes, I would guess). Some of these are very affecting; cumulatively, they certainly are. But I was unable to guess at the reason for some of them. One entire room was dedicated to pictures of the swirling water taken, perhaps, over the side of a bridge. While they are far from identical, they are all the same. Another follows a man on horse from a distance, behind, as he travels a short way. The final room is a series of color pictures of a laptop showing security footage of people crossing a barbed-wire-surrounded bridge. No indication of whether this is a public website, or if she’d been granted access to a security control room. Beyond the brochure materials about the exhibit (shown at the link above) there are no placards, captions or other text to explain what you’re looking at or why – which is, in itself, a kind of statement, I suppose. I confess, I didn’t quite know what to make of it. Of course, the same might be said of my series of images of the exhibit.
As always, click any image to see them all full-size.
I’m not sure how historical this bog village really was. Each hut in the collection was stuffed to the rafters with old, decrepit stuff but I’m not fully persuaded they were all of the era they purported to be. A lot of it just looked to be old junk, but not necessarily of the claimed 18th-19th century.
Click any image to see them all full-sized (click the post title to view in the browser – doesn’t work if you’re looking at it in an email).
We visited the Owens-Thomas House, part of the Telfair trio of museums. Interestingly, they have shifted their historical focus from showing off the pleasures of genteel, ante-bellum life to the realities of enslavement. Of particular interest was a plaque discussing the impact of language on our discourse and recommending that instead of “slave,” we use the term “enslaved person,” separating their enslavement from their essential personhood; the term “enslaver,” in preference to “master;” and to eschew the bucolic “plantation” in favor of “slave labor camp,” a more apt description of their essential character.
Here we see Barbara Kruger using my own technique – they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, though I doubt she’s ever seen my work.