Termite Art vs. White Elephant Art

Chris Marker’s “Passengers” at the Peter Blum Gallery: Here–> http://peterblumgallery.com/artists/chris-marker

My initial reaction to Chris Marker’s latest New York/Chelsea style exhibition of photography was that it maintained a less radical and very stock feeling. For a film maker that has produced innovative ideas of stop motion – real life – short films to films that disobey the conception of permanence and exude critical responses to memory and subjectivity in the current age- this exhibition was weak. It felt old, and suggested nothing all that innovative or conceptually or physically radical. The exhibition, makes obvious the interwoven degree of art history and urban life- which is a development that connects this work directly with Godard’s 1980s cinema.

The work felt like it had both been done before and that it was composed with a collage of ideas that had already been expressed from those associated with the French New Wave from 1955-1990. Photographs taken in the subways juxtapose a wide variety of enlightenment and pre-enlightenment paintings with the physical bodies of folks that have been captured in transit. What does this say to me? Not just that the slummy feeling of contemporary urban life compared to the romanticized vision of art history provides for a humorous take on culture and art, but that these types of critical modes of expression are worn out. The immediacy, or the feeling of affectivity that is brought forth by Marker in this exhibit does not go far enough to create a unique montage. Marker makes obvious certain statements of being in transit, being interwoven with history, montage structure in photography, as well as assemblage. Yet, these ideas do not develop anything that exists far below the surface. Look at the images on the website. They really aren’t that exciting to look at. Just imagine these images being showcased in a bourgeois gallery.

~Jay Bowe

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