"This constitutes the terrible plausibility of these images, and part of the basis for their success: they do describe and also enact a world in which people are socially atomized, politically weak, and are governed by their place in the image world. In demanding that the maximum visual detail be wrung from their subjects, they silence and still them. In their seamless, high-resolution depictions, they present the victory of the image world over its human subjects as total and eternal.

            While the results may hold apparently radical elements – that the passivity and image victimhood of the subjects may rebound on their viewers – the ambiguity of such images finally salvages artist and viewer. Such images oscillate between identification and distancing, honoring and belittling, critical recognition and the enjoyment of spectacle, and access to the real and the critique of realist representation. Despite the vast amount of data in these images, their specificity is low in terms of unambiguous statements about their subjects. Given that lack of specificity, so standard a feature of art-world production, what is highlighted instead (as Rosler argued) is self-projection by the photographer, and, we should add, by the viewer. Dijkstra says that the bathers in the beach pictures are “more or less a self-portrait.” So we find ourselves in that familiar real of thorough ambiguity, complex as a trap for thought, though far from complex, indeed clichéd, as a configuration in art production, in which, in the free-trade zone of the art work, artist, and viewer are offered matching opportunities for the apparently non-instrumental play of their creative and intellectual faculties.”

Julian Stallabrass What’s In A Face?: Blankness and Significance in Contemporary Art Photography in October, Vol. 122 (Fall 2007)

All images from Portraits © Rineke Dijkstra.

@9 months ago with 138 notes
#Art #Photography #Portraiture #Rineke Dijkstra #Criticism #Julian Stallabrass #Culture #Consumerism #Power #Identity 
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