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Afterall issue 32 Published

Afterall issue 32, Spring 2013, examines contemporary approaches to image-making.

The tension between transparency and opacity in photographic representation, the role of objects as images and the ethics of representation and self-representation are some of the questions addressed in this issue of Afterall through close readings of the work of artists such as Saloua Raouda Choucair, David Claerbout, Ahlam Shibli, James Welling and Pae White. Accompanying essays discuss Pontus Hultén’s 1966 exhibition HON – en katedral (HON – a cathedral) and photographic attempts at capturing the current financial crisis.

The issue opens with Trevor Paglen revisiting the story of the Pioneer Plaque and the Golden Record, launched into space in the 1970s in the event of contact with extra-terrestrials. These attempts to create visual and aural representations of humanity reflect the difficulties of interspecies communication, and the ethical responsibilities inherent in imagining an absolute other.

In her photographic series, Ahlam Shibli portrays collective subjects living under adverse conditions—from Palestinians living in the occupied territories to LGBT communities in former Eastern Europe—while at the same time trying to avoid making her subjects representative of a particular situation or time. Christian Höller discusses the dialectics between revealing and concealing in Shibli’s work and Yazid Anani takes a close look at her recent series “Death” (2012). Seriality is also central to David Claerbout‘s digital manipulations of photographs. Erika Balsom contextualises his practice within a return to pictorialism in recent artists’ moving image, suggesting that his interrogation of photography as a medium responds to a deep-seated desire to represent a time past.

Whether certain images are to be considered part of a specific tradition or can instead be freed from such constraints is addressed by Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith in his review of the assessment of James Welling as part of the Pictures Generation in the early eighties, arguing that his work over the past thirty years is concerned with a variety of modes of representation as much as with representation itself. In an interview with Anthony Spira, the artist also speaks about his early photographs, and about ambiguity as an abiding concern within his work.

The transformation of everyday objects into ambiguous images is one of the focus points of Pae White‘s practice. Glenn Adamson discusses the working methods behind the fleeting beauty of the artist’s tapestries and sculptural installations, while Terry R. Myers surveys her practice from the 1990s to the present. Sharing with White an interest in geometric abstraction, Saloua Raouda Choucair‘s paintings and sculptures are informed by both the lineage of Islamic art and Western modernism. Kaelen Wilson-Goldie examines her practice in relation to the changing social and political context of her native Lebanon over the past seventy years.

Finally, two essays in this issue attempt to reactivate artistic legacy. Andrew Stefan Weiner gauges photography’s capacity to represent the current financial crisis in the US, comparing images made today to their historical precedents—from the Farm Security Administration programme in the 1930s to Allan Sekula’s and Fred Lonidier’s works from the 1970s. And Benoît Antille looks back at HON – en katedral, an exhibition organised by Pontus Hultén in 1966 at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm with Niki de Saint Phalle, Jean Tinguely and Per Olof Ultvedt. Examining how the project aimed to widen the museum’s publics, Antille highlights some of the problems that still appear in much of today’s socially engaged works and institutional politics.

Afterall Books is also proud to present the fourth publication in its “Exhibition Histories” series, Making Art Global (Part 2): ‘Magiciens de la Terre’ 1989, as well as two new “One Work” titles: Sabeth Buchmann and Max Jorge Hinderer Cruz’s Hélio Oiticica and Neville D’Almeida: Block-Experiments in Cosmococa – program in progress and Ruth Noack’s Sanja Iveković: Triangle.

Afterall journal is published by Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London, in editorial partnership with M HKA, Antwerp, the Smart Museum of Art and the Open Practice Committee, University of Chicago and UNIA arteypensamiento, Seville, and in association with the University of Chicago Press.

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