November 2008, Camera Ephemera: Endangered Media Objects and Manufacturing the Art Object @ Found Gallery


Camera Ephemera: Endangered Media Objects and Manufacturing the Art Object
Found Gallery

Polaroid photography is a loaded, over saturated territory. Vice Magazine and NYC enfant terrible Dash Snow, have popularized the genre via images of waifish chicks flashing their tits and strung out hipster guys blowing rails, brawling, and fucking. The raw immediacy of these images holds some appeal, but they lack sensitivity of artists like Nan Goldin and  Ryan McGinley who document countercultural groups (that they belong to) without flaunting or pandering. The Vice Magazine Polaroid aesthetic has more in common with hip hop’s tradition of bragging and boasting than Goldin or McGinley’s penetrating snapshots. Staging bacchanalian rabble rousing for the camera is amusing, but quickly becomes tiresome. The compulsion to document oneself constantly underscores the possibility for counter culture to mutate into what journalist Douglas Harder calls “a self-obsessed aesthetic vacuum.”
Ashley Tibbits’ first curatorial foray at Found Gallery is an effort to reclaim the Polaroid.

Camera Ephemera attempts to reinstate the medium’s capacity for tenderness. “For many, such pictures are tied closely to memories of childhood, of family. Perhaps we realize that the physicality of holding a precious image in your hand might be a feeling as increasingly obsolete as the medium itself,’ Tibbits writes in her statement for the exhibition. She presents a wide range of approaches in this nine person show. “I didn’t want it to be a line of Polaroids on the wall,” she explains, “I wanted to show the different directions you could take the medium.” And she does. Camera Ephemera showcases 9 distinct photographic visions.  Tibbits presents a series of self portraits of herself and an anonymous cut out figure enacting sweet, mundane routines. Clearly a paean to a distant (or past) love, the piece is cheekily endearing. Calethea deCanto’s warm, blurry photographs mounted on wood conjure up Maya Deren’s experimental film masterpiece, Meshes of the Afternoon, with its poetic evocation of inner experience.David Louang’s taut sun burnished portraits and interiors are clear indicators of the nostalgia and inherent melancholia Tibbits described in her curatorial statement. Joshua Wysocki’s framed landscapes are the most straight forward of the bunch, but his clear eye for structure and color make them one of the exhibitions stand-outs.  

Despite their current ubiquity in underground art exhibitions and fashion/lifestyle mags, there are no solipstic party shots in the exhibtion.  
What does Tibbits think about the popular bawdy boys club aesthetic of Vice? “Don’t even get me started about them,” she says and takes a sip of her coffee.


Jesi Khadivi in LA

Jesi Khadivi is a writer and curator living in Los Angeles. She writes for Venus Zine and the Brooklyn Rail among other publications. She recently completed research on the definitive biography of Gram Parsons and is currently working on her first book.

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