<br><h3> Chapter One </h3> <b>INTRODUCTION: PHOTOGRAPHY AFTER CONCEPTUAL ART <p> DIARMUID COSTELLO AND MARGARET IVERSEN</b> <p> <p> This <i>Art History</i> book aims to open up a debate about what is at stake in contemporary photographic art. It forms part of a large AHRC funded research project, 'Aesthetics after Photography', which focuses on the challenges that recent art photography poses for aesthetic theory. A collaborative and cross-disciplinary endeavour, the research project is directed by Margaret Iversen of the Department of Art History and Theory at the University of Essex and Diarmuid Costello of the Philosophy Department, University of Warwick. They have also guest edited this volume. The chapters' original incarnation was as a two-day session at the annual Association of Art Historians conference held at Tate Britain, London, in 2008. We called for papers that addressed substantive theoretical or aesthetic issues raised by photography of the post-1960s period as an artistic medium, particularly in light of the oft-heard claim that the arts now inhabit a 'post-medium' condition. Our goal was to explore the remarkable shifts in the dominant forms of photography as a mainstream contemporary art, as opposed to a specialist domain, notably the significance of its apparent transformation from anti-aesthetic to aesthetic medium of choice. This can be seen in the way in which the a- or non-aesthetic uses of photography associated with various conceptual, proto-conceptual and post-conceptual practices of the 1960s and 1970s, and their documentation, gave way in the 1980s to the self-consciously 'anti-aesthetic' practices of postmodern appropriation, only to be overtaken in turn by the large-scale, pictorial and frequently digital, colour photography that has dominated photographic art since the 1990s. This last is a form of photography that is often compared to painting in the range of aesthetic effects to which it aspires. Certainly, it has been welcomed by museums, galleries, and the market in these terms. <p> One way we approached our theme was by taking up Jeff Wall's claim that recent photography represents a turn away from conceptual art – 'the last moment of the pre-history of photography as art' – and exploring its implications. One critical question this raised is whether the majority of recent photographic art is merely 'after' conceptual art in a weak historical sense, or whether it is truly post-conceptual in the more substantive sense of not merely coming after, but also internalizing and building upon the lessons of conceptual art. In practice, this has meant dealing with the way photography was conceived within the original conceptual and proto-conceptual practices of, say, Ed Ruscha, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Douglas Huebler and Mel Bochner, on the one hand, and the pictorial photography of, say, Jeff Wall, Thomas Demand, and Andreas Gursky, on the other. There is still a temptation to see the early book works of Ruscha and the industrial archaeology of the Bechers, in particular, as establishing the conceptual, pictorial, and aesthetic ground upon and from which ambitious photographic art has since developed or diverged. Broadening the scope to consider less often examined exponents of photography within conceptual art complicates this picture. Moreover, some contemporary artists' work can be seen to combine 'pictorial' and 'conceptual' elements: Roni Horn's colour photographic books, for example, fall into this hybrid category. In any case, it was our hunch from the beginning that several of the critical divisions that structure writing on this body of work – between conceptual and pictorial, the aesthetic and the anti-aesthetic, etc. – are frequently over-determined and exaggerated. In their different ways, the chapters collected here explore this hybrid condition. <p> Given the importance of Ruscha's books for the subsequent history of photography as art, it is not surprising that there are two chapters on the subject that intersect in interesting ways. In her chapter, 'Auto-maticity: Ruscha and Performative Photography', Margaret Iversen argues that the titles of Ruscha's books provide a verbal 'score' to be filled out by specific photographic realizations or performances. His practice is thus tied to a legacy of Duchamp that stems particularly from his instruction-framed piece, <i>3 Standard Stoppages</i>. Referring to his groundbreaking 1963 book, <i>Twentysix Gasoline Stations</i>, Ruscha explained that the title was formulated in advance of taking the photographs; in other words, it provided the nub of an instruction which he then duly carried out along Route 66. This suggests that Ruscha was engaged in a very specific kind of artistic activity – that is, following a predetermined route in his car and systematically recording just the gas stations. This pervasive auto-maticity (instruction, car, route, camera) is what makes the books perplexing and different from other photography books such as Robert Frank's <i>The Americans</i>. Iversen aims this argument against that offered by Jeff Wall in his essay on conceptual photography, 'Marks of Indifference' an essay that is frequently cited in this volume. Wall positions the work of Ruscha and other artists of the period in relation to 'non-autonomous', that is, photojournalistic or amateur photography which, Iversen contends, fails to capture his deliberately affectless, depersonalized, repetitious, deadpan use of the camera. By conceiving of the books as instructional performance pieces, Iversen brings out the open-ended, experimental character of other works such as <i>Thirtyfour Parking Lots</i> or <i>Royal Road Test</i> (both from 1967), where an instruction is performed 'blindly' in order to see what will happen. <p> Aron Vinegar's chapter is also concerned with Ruscha's photography. In 'Ed Ruscha, Heidegger, and Deadpan Photography', Vinegar connects the frequent use of the term 'deadpan' to describe Ruscha's work with Stanley Cavell's remarks on Buster Keaton's face and Martin Heidegger's notions of mood and attunement. Benjamin Buchloh's influential essay, 'Conceptual Art 1962–69: From the Aesthetic of Administration to the Critique of Institutions', consolidated the characterization of Ruscha as deadpan, by claiming that Ruscha's photographic practice emerged from Duchamp's and Cage's legacy of an 'aesthetic of indifference', and that his deadpan approach to photography was characterized by the acceptance of a 'universally valid facticity'. However, as Vinegar demonstrates, this vocabulary of 'indifference', 'facticity', and the 'deadpan' has never been explicitly tied back to its rich vein of philosophical sources. His chapter sets out to do just this by exploring issues of 'indifference', 'equanimity', and 'facticity' set out in Heidegger's <i>Being and Time</i>. He also shows how these notions intersect with Stanley Cavell's intriguing comments on Buster Keaton's 'stone face' his characteristic expression of equanimity when confronted by whatever the world might throw at him. On this reading, deadpan emerges as not so much a mode of rhetorical delivery – and certainly not as ironic – but rather as the sign of a much deeper receptiveness to the world that is perhaps best understood in the light of Heidegger's notion of <i>Stimmung</i>, those fundamental moods or attunements characteristic of <i>Dasein</i>'s way of being in, and openness towards, the world in which it finds itself. So construed, deadpan is an even-tempered and resolutely non-judgemental receptiveness to the world – hence the 'Every' in <i>Every Building on Sunset Strip</i>. <p> Coming from quite different directions, then, Iversen's and Vinegar's chapters on Ruscha nonetheless converge around the ideas of receptivity and openness and their aesthetic significance. Read together they implicitly point towards deeper aesthetic questions about the embodiment of reflective judgement (in the Kantian sense of that term) in art. Given the themes of Vinegar's chapter, it is notable that Heidegger glosses the notion of 'disinterestedness' fundamental to Kant's theory of aesthetic judgement in terms of the 'unconstrained favouring' and 'free granting' of what appears. Such considerations clearly cut against the a- or non-aesthetic ways in which ideas such as the deadpan have typically been conceived in art history and criticism since the late 1960s. <p> Sarah James's chapter, 'Subject, Object, Mimesis: The Aesthetic World of the Bechers' Photography', considers the equally influential practice of Bernd and Hilla Becher, regarded by many critics as another foundation stone of photographic art since the 1960s. Taking issue, similarly, with anti-aesthetic portrayals of their work and its underlying motivation, James employs Theodor Adorno's culturally and historically contemporaneous notion of 'mimesis' to foreground the mimetic relation to the world at the core of the Bechers' project – its relentless attempt to embody concretely a form of subjectivity adequate to its objects, and in so doing 'redeem expression' – which she understands in an Adornian light as a somatic responsiveness to the world prior to discursive thought. Examining the recent views of Blake Stimson and Michael Fried on the subjective and objective aspects of the Bechers' photography, she offers an overarching view that would make sense of them both, implying that in so far as the two critical readings she canvasses only capture one side of the relation their work foregrounds, both remain incomplete when taken on their own. To this end, she argues that Adorno's aesthetic thought, notably his central and multivalent category of mimesis, offers a way in which to frame the relation of the subject and the object figured by the Bechers' photography, and in doing so to situate it within the context of a particular moment in German history. In this way, the Bechers' rejection of subjectivity and their pursuit of an objective photography are contextualized in relation to the 'post-Auschwitz taboo on beauty', and the ideology of anti-ideology that dominated West German cultural politics of the 1950s. Hence, despite the obvious differences between the context and meaning of the Bechers' use of photography and Ruscha's, here, too, an ethics of receptivity and openness to the world and the objects within it is evidently in play. <p> Moving on from these influential proto-conceptual practices, the next pair of chapters looks closely at individual projects in the less widely examined practices of Douglas Huebler and Mel Bochner. Gordon Hughes's chapter focuses on the shift from Huebler's early systems-based photographic work to his later use of photographic portraiture as a means to undercut the very systems that apparently govern his practice. To this end, he shows how the work reveals its antisystematic nature by flouting its self-imposed constraints: Huebler includes a number of 'tells' to alert his viewers to the fact that the official claims for his practice are not to be taken at face value. As an example of this strategy, Hughes pays particular attention to Huebler's <i>Variable Piece #105, London, 1972</i>. This purports to pair photographs of eighteen mannequins taken at two-minute intervals on Oxford Street in London, with a photograph of the next passerby of the same sex as the mannequin that Huebler encountered. In Hughes' account, this piece is a key example of Huebler's attempts simultaneously to negate both the text-based systems that appear to structure a number of systems-based photographic practices, including his own, and the egregious expressivity of contemporaneous New York school photographers. This is why Huebler employs photographic <i>portraiture</i> in the context of his ostentatiously leaky systems. The fact that Huebler contravenes his own constraints to pair mannequins with look-alikes negates the former, while the use of look-alikes itself raises the spectre, but only the spectre, of the surrealists' use of doubles to tap into the Marvellous. Huebler's work consistently drains such motifs of their once uncanny affects, which, Hughes argues, should be seen as a riposte to the use of such motifs by various New York school photographers, including Diane Arbus and Helen Levitt, in their attempt to reinvigorate the expressivity of photographic portraiture. <p> Luke Skrebowski's chapter, 'Productive Misunderstandings: Interpreting Mel Bochner's Theory of Photography', also focuses primarily on a single photographic work by a conceptual artist: Bochner's self-reflexive examination of photography in <i>Misunderstandings (A Theory of Photography)</i> (1967–70), a series of photographs on index cards of hand-written fallacies about the nature of photography. Like several other contributors to this volume, Skrebowski takes aim at Wall's partisan history of photo-conceptualism, particularly his use of this history to legitimate a practice of photographic tableaux, the terms of which his own practice may then be seen to fulfil. Despite appearing to fulfil Duchamp's hope that photography would render painting 'despicable', the most prominent outcome of photography's success turns out to be, ironically, the emergence of photography as a bona fide mainstream fine art medium through which to reinvigorate the Western tradition of picture-making. Skrebowski understands the implications of Bochner's work to be a thoroughgoing critique of such picture-making <i>avant la lettre</i>, which he argues is premised on a partial and highly motivated reading of conceptual art's 'failure' to undermine the ability of canonical artistic media to function as ontological guarantors of their works' existence as art. By re-conceiving photography as information, Skrebowski argues, Bochner sought to undermine or at least place <i>en abyme</i>, by means of a complex sequence of iterations, inversions, and partial fabrications, the iconic indexicality widely taken to be photography's irreducible, medium-specific characteristic. That is, the apparent necessity that photographs are always, and only, depictions of whatever was before the camera at the moment of exposure, and as such occupies the correct causal relation to the resulting image. <p> Moreover, much like Hughes's reading of <i>Variable Piece #105, London, 1972</i>, Skrebowski's account of Bochner's Misunderstandings includes a number of 'tells'. These include Bochner's admission that the series contains a number of invented fallacies and a lone picture card that seems to show an impossible image, a negative of a Polaroid, a negative-less positive process. Such clues, particularly the latter, caution us against taking what the work appears to document at face value, and in doing so reveal Bochner's theoretical hand. Taken together with his photographic work more generally, <i>Misunderstandings</i> thus functions as a selfreflexive interrogation of photographic ontology that refuses to reduce photography to its depictive function. As such, Bochner's photography constitutes both a neglected moment in photo-conceptualism, and an anticipation of more recent, post-digital worries about the ontology of the photographic image. <p> One of several obvious tensions that animate the chapters in this volume can be highlighted by the juxtaposition of Skrebowski's defence of the aims of a radical conceptual critique of the aesthetic and Mark Godfrey's close reading of Roni's Horn's series of photographic books which she has been publishing since 1990. The photographs in <i>To Place</i> (1990–2006) document particular geographic, architectural, and cultural features of Iceland's landscape, while suggesting a range of possible relationships between photography, drawing and object making, as well as between various photographic genres. In his chapter, 'Roni Horn's Icelandic Encyclopedia', Godfrey contextualizes this project in relation to the history of post-conceptual photographic practices and artists' books, arguing that Horn uses the form of the archive and encyclopedia to undo rather than cement categories and definitions. In this respect at least, her project resembles Huebler's systematic undoing of systems. <p> <i>(Continues...)</i> <p> <p> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>Photography After Conceptual Art</b> by <b>Diarmuid Costello Margaret Iversen</b> Copyright © 2010 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Excerpted by permission of John Wiley & Sons. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.