Jan Tyniec

Bonsai

20 x 16 inches
Printed on Matte Fiber Base Paper by Illford.
Signed with Pencil on Verso.
Negative 223392-1A-11,20
2010

Jan Tyniec

Full Circle. Offerings

Bali. 2008. Edition 1(15) - 1
20 x 16 inches
Printed on Matte Fiber Base Paper by Illford.
Signed with Pencil on Verso.
Negative 220947-2-18,
2008

Jan Tyniec

Full Circle. Offerings

Bali. 2008. Edition 1(15) - 2
20 x 16 inches
Printed on Matte Fiber Base Paper by Illford.
Signed with Pencil on Verso.
Negative 220947-5-6
2008

Jan Tyniec

Full Circle. Offerings

Bali. 2008. Edition 1(15) - 3
20 x 16 inches
Printed on Matte Fiber Base Paper by Illford.
Signed with Pencil on Verso.
Negative 220947-5-12br />2008

Joel Singer

Angkul Angkul Angkor

Photege Edition 1 (10)
100 x 69 cm
Printed on canvas
2011

Joel Singer

Beyond

Photege Edition 1 (10)
100 x 70 cm
Printed on canvas
2011

Joel Singer

Buoyant Monk

Photege Edition 1 (10)
100 x 75 cm
Printed on canvas
2011

Joel Singer

Hudson River Park

Photege Edition 1 (10)
99 x 100 cm
Printed on canvas
2011

Joel Singer

Manhattan Bridge

Photege Edition 1 (10)
100 x 64 cm
Printed on canvas
2011

Joel Singer

Order

Photege Edition 1 (10)
100 x 98 cm
Printed on canvas
2011

Joel Singer

Separate Realities

Photege Edition 1 (10)
100 x 100 cm
Printed on canvas
2011

Joel Singer

Subversive Monk

Photege Edition 1 (10)
100 x 66 cm
Printed on canvas
2011

Joel Singer

What's Behind Us

Photege Edition 1 (10)
100 x 57 cm
Printed on canvas
2011

Linda Connor

Apsara Ankor Wat, Cambodia

38.5 x 48 inches
Digital Archival Prints
On 16mm silk
2001

Linda Connor

Entwined Buddha, Ayutthaya, Thailand

38.5 x 48 inches
Digital Archival Prints
On 16mm silk
1988

Linda Connor

Temple Entrance, Bali, Indonesia

38.5 x 48 inches
Digital Archival Prints
On 16mm silk
2011

Linda Connor

Tree Decorated with Ceremonial Cloth, Bali, Indonesia

38.5 x 48 inches
Digital Archival Prints
On 16mm silk
1991

Lonnie Graham

1

1-Scan-100828-0017

Lonnie Graham

Brew 2

Lonnie Graham

Mr. Thomas

Lonnie Graham

Psupng Huli Men

Made Wianta

Dewan Perwakilan Tikus

101 x 169 cm
Photo on canvas and Video Art
2011

Vladik Monroe

By Warhol

80 x 80 cm
Photo Print at Alluminium 6 Exempl
2005

Vladik Monroe

Warhol by Monroe

80 x 80 cm
Photo Print at Alluminium 6 Exempl
2005

← back to Past Exhibitions Photography Exhibition   |   Article by Arif Bagus Prasetyo

Art Infinitum (2012)

Jan Tyniec   Between Artistic Photography & Straight Photography   |   Joel Singer   Photomontage in the Digital Age
Linda Connor   Photography and Mortality   |   Lonnie Graham   The Paradox of Photographic Portrait
Made Wianta   Against Art Photography   |   Vladik Monroe   The Doublefold Self-referential Art

Indeed, the most enduring triumph of photography has been its aptitude for discovering beauty in the humble, the inane, the decrepit. At the very least, the real has a pathos. And that pathos is beauty.
― Susan Sontag, On Photography

At the time the daguerreotype was invented in the 1800s, painting was the primary art form. In an era that is often referred to as pictorialism, photographers began to make their photographs look like paintings. In their efforts to bring photography closer to painting, photographers combined technological innovation with creativity through various messy experiments in order to achieve soft focus and painterly effects, such as hazy light.

In 1888, George Eastman introduced the first Kodak camera that contained film-roll with the famous slogan, "You press the button, we do the rest". Since then, photography has never lost its popularity. It seemed that the first easy-to-use camera had allowed everyone to take pictures easily. Technical advances had made taking photographs ever simpler and enabled general public to participate in the business. Photography became popular industry. But along with the "industrialization" of photography, there was growing concern about qualitative decline of photography. It was perceived that the popularity of photography had undermined the aesthetic standards of photography, because photography was increasingly seen as a mechanical activity that required no skill. As the editors of American Amateur Photographer (July 1889) observe, "Photography has been degraded to the level of an amusement."

Many photographers feared that photography was too mechanical and drifted further and further away from the realm of art, especially from painting. This fear had contributed to the development of photography as a recognized art form on a par with other art forms, such as painting and sculpture. In an effort to make people realize that photography was an art form in its own right, and that photographers were artists and not simply people shooting snapshots, the famous American photographer, Alfred Stieglitz, in the early 1900s founded the Photo-Secession as well as the magazine, Camera Work, to promote pictorialism. Stieglitz believed that "photographic equipment: the lens, the plates and so on constitute a flexible instrument and not a mere mechanical tyrant" (W. Kemp 1980). The Photo-Secessionist photographers often manipulated photographic process, especially by employing a wide variety of printmaking tricks, to achieve painterly effects in their photographs.

Then Paul Strand promoted "straight photography", as exemplified in the photographs he made around 1916 without using any tricks of photographic manipulation. Against pictorialism or artistic photography, Strand believed that photography should find its "absolute unqualified objectivity" by investigating photography's own inherent characteristics. He had successfully combined the concept of painterly abstraction with the idea of straight, sharp focus, photography. In this type of photography, artistic quality was achieved by emphasizing methods of creating the image in the camera at the moment of exposure.

Since the 1960s, thanks to the efforts the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, especially its Director of Photography, John Szarkowski, photography has obtained the status of high art or fine art. Photography has become recognized as singular, authentic, work of art on a par with painting, sculpture and other art forms. This prestigious fine art status was based on photography's claims to Benjaminian "aura": photography as auratic image. According to Walter Benjamin, "aura" comprised those qualities of singularity and uniqueness which produced the authoritative presence of the original work of art. In this sense, "art photography" refers to photographs endowed with technical virtuosity and artistic originality, understood as the unique expression of individual author-photographer.

In the 1970s, photography contributed to the redefinition of "art" when it began to become one of significant "weapons" for postmodernist artists in the West in their struggle against the notions of modernist art. As Abigail Solomon-Godeau observes, "Virtually every critical and theoretical issue with which postmodernist art may be said to engage in one sense or another can be located within photography" (B. Wallis 1984). Postmodernist artists like Sherrie Levine, Cindy Sherman and Victor Burgin used the photographic medium to expose photography's ambivalence: Photography is in no way transparent, not at all clear of cultural formation, yet it is technically tied with the real. Postmodern photography defines the photographer as more the manipulator of signs than the producer of an art object, and the viewers as more the active reader of signs than the passive consumer of aesthetic beauty.

In the 1980s, photography found a place in video installations, a new media that transformed "art". The arrival of digital photography transformed "art" even further. Along with other new media and the Internet, the use of image manipulation with digital devices has reinvented photography and redefined the art of photography. As technology advances, photography and videography are becoming one, and the melding of the two different media will determine the future of photography.

Linda Hutcheon (1989) see paradox at the heart of the photographic medium: photography is controlled by the subjectivity of the photographer's eye on the one hand, and by the objectivity of the camera's technology, its seemingly transparent realism of recording, on the other hand. According to Hutcheon, these two poles are difficult to reconcile. Nevertheless, she sees the trend toward a suspicion of the scientific neutrality of photographic recording technology. As D. Davis (1977) observes, "Photograph has ceased to be a window on the world, through which we see things as they are. It is rather a highly selective filter, placed there by a specific hand and mind."

Featuring the works of six artists working with photography, the current exhibition, Art Infinitum, take the position that it is precisely because of its paradox, because of the abyss between the subjectivity of the photographer's eye and the objectivity of the camera's technology, photography has something of infinity as an art that continually redefine itself as well as the ways in which we are seen and see ourselves and the world. With the exception of one Indonesian artist (Made Wianta), this exhibition involves Western artists (Jan Tyniec, Linda Connor, Lonnie Graham, Joel Singer, Vladik Monroe) who are certainly more familiar with the history and the discourse of photography, a medium that was invented and has reached its maturity in the West. Given the fact that the exhibition takes place in Indonesia, where the history and the discourse of photography is less known by the art lovers, even by artists and photographers, it is important to put a brief account of the history and the discourse of photography in the background of the exhibition. Art Infinitum presents photography as an infinite included into a finite: an art form that continually evolving through the time. Photography as an art infinitum.

Arif Bagus Prasetyo is a curator, alumnus of the IWP University of Iowa, USA.