Wednesday 11 March 2009

'The only reality which counts in the end is the interpretation', John Grierson

© Sean Snyder, Index, 2008-9 Courtesy the artist and Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris; Lisson Gallery, London; Galerie Neu, Berlin

Ok, so I've cut the quote slightly but it just seemed so relevant to Index, an exhibition currently showing at the ICA in London by the American artist Sean Snyder. Index is a manifestation of a research project Snyder has been working on, going back, examining and digitising his own archive of images and recordings. In his own words
"Using archival and media resources, as well as references from the history of cinema, photography and art, the research attempts to define a cumulative vocabulary to approach the vast role that imaging technologies play in the construction of ideology."
'Optics. Compression. Propaganda', Sean Snyder in Art and Research: a Journal of Ideas, Contexts and Methods, Vol. 2, No. 1 Summer 2008

The eponymous Index part of the exhibition is photographs of his archive of images and recordings, including photographs of tapes and other analogue recording materials as well as the digital devices he was transferring his archive to. Maybe this is just the archivist in me but I found it quite frustrating that there wasn't much, if any, contextual information given about most of these photographs. Maybe this was the point, to think on them as art objects themselves rather than repositories of information. However if this was the case then it seems to conflict with another part of Snyder's research project, a website from which the digital archive will be able to be accessed (which gives some information about the content and context of the photographs in the exhibition). However, even with the lack of information about the information in the photographs, they still make interesting images and it's always great to get a glimpse into the world of information that informs artists' work.

© Sean Snyder, Exhibition, 2008, DVD projection, 7 minutes, Installation view at ICA, 2009
Courtesy: The artist and Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris; Lisson Gallery, London; Galerie Neu, Berlin

In addition to Index there are three video installations: Exhibition; Afghanistan, circa 1985; and Casio, Seiko, Sheritan, Toyota, Mars. I thought they were all really interesting but I particularly liked the first film Exhibition which uses a Soviet propaganda film from 1965 about an exhibition of contemporary Mexican art by Riviera and other Mexican artists I hadn't heard of before and mixes this with film footage of an art history lecture in a rural community. I liked the similarities it pointed to between the art in the exhibition space in the gallery and then the art lecture in the rural community where the art works were hanging on the outside walls of a farm building. Even in the rural setting the conventions of the art world were adhered too, the work was framed, revered and examined just as it would be in a gallery setting. I read, in the programme for the exhibition, that it was meant to be 'exploring the ideological basis of the original documentary' but it was the similarities, the adherence to cultural conventions, that I thought was most interesting.

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