Archive for the 'Review' Category

Connelly Staff Recommends: Artificial Hells

Artificial Hells
By Claire Bishop. 2012.
Main Stacks: N6494.I57 B57 2012

Like all good criticism, Claire Bishop’s Artificial Hells adds both context and complexity to the subject it examines. This book traces the lineage of participatory art (the author’s umbrella term for socially engaged art, social practice, political art, etc.) and gives a historical frame of reference for investigating the current incarnations of this form of art-making. Throughout her work, Bishop maintains a critical stance and offers an insightful assessment of this practice. She refuses to unquestioningly accept the social and artistic worth or efficacy of participatory art, and makes a convincing argument of the need to refine the standards by which we judge such works. To her credit as well, Bishop deftly incorporates into her arguments the work of complex theorists and philosophers like Jacques Rancière and Felix Guattari – making their concepts clear and relevant in relation to her position. Artificial Hells is a book well worth reading for those interested in contemporary artistic practice or the intersections of art and social/political action.

Recommended by Matthew Ducmanas, Circulation Supervisor.

Connelly Staff Recommends: The Civil Contract of Photography

The Civil Contract of Photography
By Ariella Azoulay. 2008.
Main Stacks: TR147 .A96 2008

The Civil Contract of Photography is an important work examining the special role photography can play in understanding contemporary political and humanitarian struggles. Azoulay’s argument runs counter to the prevalent notion of the viewer’s desensitization towards images of catastrophe (as presented by the writings of Barthes and Sontag). She convincingly argues for the continued importance of photography in creating a space of discourse around these depicted events and in opposition to oppression.

From Chapter Two:
“…photography is one of the distinctive practices by means of which individuals can establish a distance between themselves and power in order to observe its actions and to do so not as its subjects. Injury to this right, which is simultaneously injury to both the photographer and the photographed, as two citizens of photography- but fundamentally against all of the citizenry of photography- establishes a duty to protect it. If it is not protected, citizens will be deprived of the protection that can be granted by photography as an instrument that employs power that is in the hands of the governed and not only in the the hands of the sovereign or those seeking to win sovereign power.”

Though a couple chapters of Azoulay’s book strayed a bit off-topic, overall it remains a strong and timely statement on photography’s continued importance. An engaging read and worth the time.

Recommended by Matthew Ducmanas, Circulation Supervisor.



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