Friday, November 30, 2007

...merely the hook that draws us...

Today, Coast to Coast features a link in the news section, to an article in the Guardian Unlimited, entitled, 'About as spooky as a tea-towel' about a Victorian-era Spiritualism photography exhibit. Predictably perhaps, the author rather ignorantly and dismissively compartmentalizes and trivializes the photographs:

[The] Seeing Is Believing show is a disappointing exhibition about the unexplained. What is really inexplicable is the mediocrity of many photographs in the show: Claire Strand's arty portraits, with their smoky grey auras; Florencia Durante's figures and rooms, with their scribbles and arcs of yellow light. The furniture flies about, but we know too much to be more than mildly entertained by pictures like this any more.

We 'know too much?' I'm not sure 'mild entertainment' is the point of this exhibit, or any generally art/cultural exhibit for that matter. The obvious manipulation of photographs isn't the point, but even if it was, is it to be dismissed? Spiritualism's trickeries and hoaxes, fraudulent devices and practices, mixed with the rabid investigations, contain far more than meets the eye. There are elegant dynamics of gender politics, religion, etc. that deserve more than a glossed-over glance.

I suggest reading Kate Hawley's thoughtful ruminations on the subject in her article Photography and the Occult at The Revealer: ...focusing purely on the silliness is a mistake. These photographs reveal a great deal about their time, and our own.


1 comment:

pareidoliac said...

I can only speak for my photographs in the exhibit. They are some of if not the only photographs made for something beyond entertainment. Not only producing a democratic art form in which everyone is free to participate and produce works superior to art, but to demonstrate the concept of solipsism, showing how we are in contact with a spiritual world and are not separate from our environment. Take similar photographs yourself and see if your unconscious mind is not reflected in many, if not all of the photographs. Skepticism and a religious belief in science has brought us nothing but a war dominated world. Maybe it's time to lighten up and be enlightened. Thanks. fred ressler.