Photography and Violence 1: How do you register all of these thoughts in that image?

July 8th, 2014

Atrocity is going on all around us. The least we can do is acknowledge it.

Jay Prosser, Picturing Atrocity


When I moved to New York in 2011 I left my hometown, Acapulco, in flames. That year, according to the Citizen Council for Security, Justice and Peace, Acapulco became the second most violent city in the world[1], with an alarming murder rate of 143 persons for every 100,000. Acapulco, a seaside resort once described as paradise on Earth, turned into a living hell in which disfigured bodies were found daily and military jeeps had taken over the streets. This was just not the case of Acapulco but of various cities throughout the country which were caught in the middle of what we now refer as “Mexico’s drug war.”

With Mexico living a humanitarian crisis with a death toll equal to that of the Balkans and Iraq wars –an escalating violence that has not been seen in the country since the Mexican Revolution (1910-1917)–[2] I became less concerned with art production within a tradition of modernist aesthetic self-reflection, and more and more captivated by artistic initiatives that examine the social and political climate of their times. More specifically, I am interested in the intersections between art and violence.

For the next couple of months I wish to pursue this interest further in the CCNY blog by focusing on photography. I plan to curate my entries not by surveying the theme of “Violence and Photography” through the past decades, but by addressing different themes and problematics that photographing violence, suffering or atrocity entail.

One first image: a necessary but impossible-to-look-at photography by American photographer Susan Meiselas (b. Baltimore, Maryland, 1948).

Caption: Susan Meiselas. Cuesta del Plomo, a well-known site of many assassinations near Managua carried out by the National Guard. People searched here daily for missing persons. July, 1978.

Caption: Susan Meiselas. Cuesta del Plomo, a well-known site of many assassinations near Managua carried out by the National Guard. People searched here daily for missing persons. July, 1978.


What lays outside the frame of this image, of what we can see in this image, is not less brutal than the image itself. In fact, one of Meiselas’ main concerns is the inadequacy of framing. One can see in her work, as well as in many photographs of violent murders, how relevant is the effort of “trying to fill” by narrating what happens “outside the frame.” She says:

“This was a known site of execution. I had often heard about such places. That body was left to terrorize everyone passing. It was at the top of a steep hill, so you can imagine the buses dragging themselves up, about a mile or so outside the capital of Managua. For a long time I’ve lived with the inadequacy of that frame to tell everything I knew, and I think a lot about what is outside the frame, what is beyond this body: parts of other bodies down the hill, right behind it, below in the trees, still caught in branches. Men and women were dismembered and never identified. I also think a lot about what else is outside of the frame, such as the families, and how they watched people being pulled out of their homes, sometimes never able to find their remains. That’s not in this photograph. I think of the man, not just a body on the hillside, being executed by someone who really thought they knew what he thought, not in fact killing him for what he had done. And that is also outside of the frame. How do you register all of these thoughts in that image?” (Susan Meiselas “Body on a Hillside” in Picturing Atrocity: Photography in Crisis, London: Reaktion Books, 2012)

(To know more about the images that Meiselas took of Nicaragua under the last years of the Somoza Regime, visit Susan Meiselas website.)



[1] San Pedro Sula in Honduras was ranked the first.

[2] The last major conflict in Mexico before the current drug war was The Cristero War (1923-1929), which claimed the lives of ninety thousand people in three years.


Thread 5:Vidisha Saini

June 30th, 2014

Vidisha Saini is an artist who grew up in the 90s in India. She likes to queer utopia, colonialism, gender, and history. Saini works with alter-egos (Fadescha), satire, tourism, memory, hyper-text and other performative mediums. She social as well as anti-social. Vidisha‘s recent works include “You Might Be Discorvered”, LAST Projects (LA), ‘Building On Ruins’, Cirrus Gallery (LA), ‘A Bomb With Ribbon Around It’, Queens Museum of Art (NY). Saini holds a MFA in Photography & Media, and Integrated Media from California Institute of the Arts, CA.


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Hotel El Dorado

“Hotel El Dorado”, 2013
Gold Balloon (Record Object) found in the hundred-year old lobby
of the “El Dorado Loft Building” on Spring Street.




Eldorado to Eldorado

Eldorado to Eldorado,
Episode 2 from “Of Eldorado” Performance, 2014




Tourist, Pratibimb

Tourist, Pratibimb, 2010-11




You Like Mr. Shekhar, Of Eldorado from Vidisha Saini on Vimeo.
Performance, CA, 2013




You Like Mr. Shekhar

Record Objects, Museum Vitrines
You Like Mr. Shekhar, 2013




Thread 4: Kay Walkowiak

June 18th, 2014

Kay Walkowiak lives and works in Vienna. He studied philosophy and psychology at the University of Vienna, photography and video art at the Academy of fine Arts, Vienna and art & communication and sculture & multimedia art at the University of Applied Arts, Vienna. He has received several grants and awards such as Artist in Residence Grant Banff(2014), Beijing(2013), Varaansi (2013), Theodor Körner Preis (2010), Otto Prutscher award (2008), Fred Adlmüller scholarship (2006).




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Kay Walkowiak Flat Tyre (#1), 2013

 Flat Tyre (#1), 2013




Kay Walkowiak Flat Tyre (#2), 2013

 Flat Tyre (#2), 2013




Kay Walkowiak Flat Tyre (#6), 2013

 Flat Tyre (#6), 2013




Kay Walkowiak Rotkehlchen, 2006

 Rotkehlchen, 2006
Steel, varnish, plastic




Kay Walkowiak Worship (#1), 2013

 Worship (#1), 2013




Kay Walkowiak Minimal Vandalism, 2013

 Minimal Vandalism, 2013
HD Video | 3 min. 49 sec.
In collaboration with Kilian Martin and Brett Novak




Kay Walkowiak Minimal Vandalism, 2013

 Minimal Vandalism, 2013
HD Video | 3 min. 49 sec.
In collaboration with Kilian Martin and Brett Novak




Kay Walkowiak Minimal Vandalism, 2013

 Minimal Vandalism, 2013
HD Video | 3 min. 49 sec.
In collaboration with Kilian Martin and Brett Novak




Kay Walkowiak Minimal Vandalism, 2013

 Minimal Vandalism, 2013
HD Video | 3 min. 49 sec.
In collaboration with Kilian Martin and Brett Novak




Kay Walkowiak Minimal Vandalism, 2013

 Minimal Vandalism, 2013
HD Video | 3 min. 49 sec.
In collaboration with Kilian Martin and Brett Novak



Thread 3: Rony Maltz

June 14th, 2014

Rony Maltz is a photographer, writer, bookmaker based in Rio de Janerio. He received a Master’s degree in Fine Art Photography from ICP-Bard program in New York City. Rony recently completed a long term video project on the sinking city of Atafona in Brazil.



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ATAFONA_Trailer from r_maltz on Vimeo.





















Thread 2: David Gagnebin-de Bons

April 29th, 2014

David Gagnebin-de Bons is an artist working with images. He lives and works in Lausanne, Switzerland and is a graduate of the School of the Applied Arts, Vevey.


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Untitled, 2013



Untitled, 2013


Untitled, 2012


Untitled, 2012


Untitled, 2012


My Father In Front Of The Sea of Fertility, 2013 (Projected Image)

Untitled, 2013 (Project Image)

Above two images are projected together along with a description of the image for blind people.













Installation View



Untitled, 2013


Running Conversations With Threads

April 22nd, 2014

Threads can be long and winding, in fact it can be an effort to keep them straight. They tie things together and they also get into perplexing entanglements. Conversations are threads sometimes, where surprising connections are possible. Instead of writing about art, I feel the more urgent question is how to live an examined life as an artist? It’s an old question but hopefully not a redundant one. In the course of two months, I will invite artists to talk about what nurtures them as people. What sort of communities do they seek? How do they support art making? What are their current concerns and challenges? If you’d like to engage in a conversation and wrestle with these questions, please do write to me

 Thread 1: Qiana Mestrich

Qiana Mestrich is a photo-based visual artist and writer from Brooklyn, NY. Founder of the blog Dodge & Burn: Diversity in Photography History, her Namesake Series is on view at the RUSH Arts/Corridor Gallery through May 17, 2014. She graduated from the ICP-Bard’s MFA program in 2013.


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Group of Five Mugshots from The Namesake Series (2013)



“Untitled” from The Mist in Mystic series (2012)


“Tear” from the Trust Your Struggle series (2010) 


History of the World (2012), Altered book

The “Land lords” are taking over the city

March 9th, 2014

Walking around the various art fairs over the weekend I entertained myself with the shiny pretty objects and large amounts of over priced Prosecco. Because seriously, that’s what you need to do just to survive the insane amount of similar shiny objects  that are differentiated only by location of booth and name of venue. (see bottom for my definition of shiny) However, in the midst of my escape from Scope I stumbled on a stall that stood out. Mainly because it felt like home , Brooklyn, but also because I had just seen this artist last weekend at the Buschwick Beat Night.

The work of Rafael Fuschs stood out, like a soar thumb, and I was happy to see it there; throbbing away despite all the sleek shiny work around it. Rafael doesn’t hold back and makes no apologies. In this series called the “Land Lords” was not only the most controversial studio space at the Bushwick Beat Night ( all my friends HAD to see what the fuss was about) but also the most cutting edge. His merging of images in a collage style talks about the ever changing identity of Brooklyn. The vast array of culture that clashes in the day to day lives are shown with uncomfortable tension and at times questionable stance. The glossy Photoshop technique he uses, gives an element of advertising and a sense that there is more to convey about mass communication and mass media and how they influence the community of these cultures. He stakes in his bio that ” In the realm of art and commerce photography, he puts himself out there, and invites those who see themselves as test makers, to make judgements” . Rafael is not only testing the waters with his provocative imagery but also examining the roles people play within communities , perhaps exposing stereotypes and encouraging others. But with each image you question yourself ,and your role with each image that is in front of you. Thoughts on your own relationship to economy, rent, personal identity and culture becomes all part of the analysis of this work. Rafael Fuchs is originally from Tel Aviv and moved to New York in 1985 after getting his BFA in Bezalel Art Academy in Jerusalem. His has a vast array of work stemming from a humorous yet critical perspective of the world. This includes several videos he has made as well as Saturday night live appearance that on vimeo he calls his ” My 5 minutes of fame “. He also is prolific commercial photographer as well as documentary and several commissioned art pieces. But all in all he enjoys t push those buttons. Perhaps a bit too much at times , but at least they are beings pushed.    After the shock of viewing the work I had to go back and re examine it several times. I love work that makes you question if it’s art.  I love work that makes you want to go back and hate it; but in the end, its just stuck in your head. Repeating that darn tune over and over until it becomes part of you. And that is why his work … works. It was so stuck in my head, that when on the sunny Saturday walking around Scope I smiled. Dragged my Colombian friend over to the booth and said “don’t you just hate this … ” and she smiled and said “wow we just found art. ”

Check out more of his work at Rafael Fuchs for other projects look at 56 Bogart St #1E Brooklyn NY 11206

*Shiny – super glam/ really well crafted  but perhaps too well crafted/ Cheesy/ to decorative/  trying to hard to be art/ overproduced/ tacky/ ok you get my point

“Natural Selection” … survival of the digital photograph

February 22nd, 2014

SVA and Calumet challanging the notions of body, cityscapes and the ever changing human condition. This show is a group show of sixteen emerging artist from SVA MPS Digital alumni group of 2013. Currently on view at Calumet Gallery, Located on the second floor 22 West 22 Street, showing through February 20 – 28. Each artist shown here attacks the notions of the ever evolving world we currently live in. My top pics are the following: Hsin Wang, Masha Ermak, Clay Patrick Mc Bride

Hsin Wang  deals with body and the commodities that surround us. Inserting the physical presence of the female body you see the struggle of fashion and identity in each of her prints. Beautifully composed they allow the viewer to approach the image. Yet its content is disturbing. Something alluring yet dark are present and one is left wondering if we are eliminating our own species with over consumption.

Masha Ermak – (Series called “The Strangers”) is the photographer that is on the cover of the invite and I do have to say uses a dark humor and commercial photography to create a serious conversation about society. website  Her usage of food creates in relation to the body creates a great dialogue of desire, want, and pleasure. Yet at the same time the removal of any identifiers such as heads, fingers, and photoshoped skin brings into question body image . The placement of these objects bring into mind surrealist compositions and Freudian practices into a more contemporary dialogue.

Clay Patrick Mc Bride (Series titled Underworld)

There are many, many, many photographers who attack the subject of the underground railroad system. And to tell the truth I never really see anything original. However the way Clay approached this subject was simply … fantastic. Using elements of fantasy and magic he created creatures of the underground world bridging in some cases what was reality and what was not. These large Prints were on some sort of acrylic box making them objects themselves. Personally I don’t think he needed to go that far, seemed a little to “arty” but the images themselves were impressive and evoked dreams, mystery and a world that I wish to find in the hours of 4am……





“Lets get awkward and make pictures about it” Interview with Tommy Kha

January 30th, 2014

When checking out my colleagues web site on the homepage it reads  “Lets get awkward and make pictures about it” and I think that describes Tommy very well ! This Saturday despite the polar vortex weather I went to visit him in his new studio in Dumbo. He was excited to show me his space since he really hasn’t had a “real” studio for a while because he works mostly from his own life experiences. I asked him about his studio practice and he said “Well you know ,like over the winter break I travelled home to Memphis, spent some time there. Mediated. Smoked at the bar, had a drink, and during the day I go out and walk. I take everything in and then figure out what I need to do”.  That’s what is so great about Tommy’s work is that his life … this life of taking things in from everyday existence is filled with complex moments and awkward encounters. Whats so great about Tommy’s work is that his life … this life of taking things in from everyday existence is filled with complex moments and awkward encounters. Tommy went to Memphis Collage of Art  which was more fine art based, and directly got into Yale for his Masters. When asked about how he got into photography, he exclaimed that the “story always changes”. It could have been when his sister asked him to do head shots for her modeling career. Or when his sisters boyfriend had a camera Tommy liked; so he got one too and then realized that he “liked” the guy. Whatever the story is he just liked taking pictures, a lot of bad pictures (which he claims he still does) but he just had to take them. He remembers taking a series of images in which he got all his friends naked, the accomplishment was that they actually didn’t mind him taking the nude pictures with him not so much the pictures themselves. And that’s what I enjoy about Tommy, that fearless way of approaching his subjects, there is no fear of making that “perfect” image its the experience and the nuances that count. He finds that sometimes the best images happen when you are not expecting them. Most of the time he has an idea, sets things up , the model, location, only to find that the best shot was the one that was unexpected.  We talked a lot about editing and sequencing while looking at his various series on his web page and some small images on his studio wall. Each individual image is strong enough to stand on its own yet the way his “gut” tells him to arrange them feels almost like a entering a lavish novel filled with antiheroes and shady bedrooms. Tommy uses appropriating videos as a strategy to talk about Asian male stereo types . Looking at the body and how the media can easily disregard the asian body especially the gay asian body. He addressed the issue of the lack of representation of the LGBT community in the media and how that even when there are represented there is a lack of diversity in race. It’s always white male that is standing in for roles that perhaps could be better represented, and that the characters could be more developed. The best asian representative is the guy from Walking Dead “Glen” who is a male Asian. His character in the show is  treated the same way as all the other characters he shoots a gun and that invalidates the Asian mystique. I asked him about how he felt about Jackie Chan.  Tommy said that “ it doesn’t work either, because it’s still seen more as comedy and although he may be a main character he is still marginalized by humor. He likes to insert himself in the videos and challenge these “roles” that are portrayed. As you can see in “How to Quit Me” 2013 he inserts himself into the movie “Brokeback Mountain”. How to Quit Me In one of his videos Tommy actually shoots a gun. This piece was right after the Sandy hook massacre and obviously him being from the south this was a big conversation in his home town of  Tennessee . “They are really about their gun laws and they want to keep their guns. I wanted to get bullets and they were sold out, so had to borrow some from a friend. It was the first time for me to shoot a gun and it was me just documenting it and what the experience brought to that. Just having this experience with them and hearing them say things that perhaps were not politically correct,just the state of things. Being from the South you have to have a thick skin, they are really open about racism” (quote from interview). Borrowed Bullets Not only does he like to insert himself in videos but Tommy likes to insert centerfolds into his new project that are Photo zines. These are a color copy pictures that are placed together that really aren’t “part of anything”. Re contextualizing the past photographs and a different practice of sequencing. (Please visit website for more info coming soon).His first one is called “Fathers and other Strangers” because we all know we have daddy issues.  He wanted to make sure I knew these were not black and white images because they are COLOR prints of his work. His obsession with color can be seen in each of his pieces. He loves color just in case you didn’t know!! When getting one of these zines he wants to have the centerfold not have to do with anything in the series of the zine, just an amazing disposable insert that can be taken out and placed on your wall. There are a lot of things Tommy is working on but he can’t really say much, because, well….. its a secret. So make sure to check out his website for updates for more info on his work.

The Art of the Every Day – Review of Israel Martinez at the MUCA

January 15th, 2014