|curated by Ariel Shanberg, CPW|
five artists assembled in this exhibition examine and reveal power in
under-represented locations. By doing so, they provide a dialogue on
representations of power in and through the medium of photography. Power
comes in many shapes and sizes. Along with being recognized in attributes
such as wealth, authority, knowledge, athletic excellence, and
self-determination, power is found in representation. To be depicted is a
way of being empowered as is determining who and/or what is to be
represented. An image’s ability to represent or frame a historical/social
memory, and to define a person, place, or time is an enormous power. Though
the emergence of photography democratized representation to a degree, it has
continued to propagate visual tropes of other visual art practices. As we
find ourselves in an era where the controls over how and what is represented
have increased simultaneous to the democratization of image publishing and
distribution created by the Internet, the discussion of locations
of power and the politics of representation are most pertinent.
For years Paul Shambroom has traveled across the United States photographing representations of power in non-traditional guises. In his series Meetings, Shambroom provides us with glimpses of our political power structure at its most fundamental levels. He attends town council meetings during which he creates a portrait of the presiding officers. Utilizing Photoshop, he subtly heightens elements in his images to evoke religious paintings and portraits of the Renaissance. In doing so he reveals not only the foundation of our democratic power structure, but the historic practices of compositional arrangement used to invoke authority within those depicted, albeit with a honest, humorous look at the mundane trappings of modern existence as seen in the often pedestrian settings he photographs.
For the past four years Gillian Laub, best known for her portraits of models, athletes, and celebrities, has photographed the silent majority of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict who find themselves caught in between the politicians, extremists, and factional leaders. The modern face of war is a sanitized portrayal of ministers, generals, and the thankful liberated who stream across various media outlets. It is rare to see representation of those who bare the physical and psychological scars of what is often someone else’s decision.
her democratic approach of photographing both Israelis and Palestinians in a
straightforward style, combined with quotes from each image’s subject,
Laub’s project creates a forum in which the voices of citizens are given a
platform and heard.
themselves as assets to civic action and dialogue, Two
Girls Working have
asked, ”What do you wear that makes you feel powerful?” to over
280 women across the country in their project Trappings. During Trappings
sessions – events that combine aspects of salon gatherings, group
therapy, and empowerment sessions, they create visual and audio portraits of
women who share their use of clothing to instill and evoke strength,
authority, comfort, and sex appeal. With their approach of openly
exploring the relationship of women to power within the construction of
personal identity and an emphasis on presenting their subjects’ individual
voices amongst a collective whole, they
reveal how power is constructed and employed within the everyday lives of
to the emergence of photography, sculpture was one of the dominant visual
art forms used to signify power. Tim
Lehmacher’s series Pli
(Folds) explores the vocabulary of sculpture used to visually depict
and/or instill notions of power. In his explorations, Lehmacher
examines the practices of artists, distilling the image down to three core
elements - subject, environment, and viewpoint. His uniform approach creates
an opportunity for viewers to contemplate what communicates power within the
visual arts of sculpture and photography.
In asking such questions as: where is power found?, who determines or defines representation?, in being represented is one empowered?, and what tools are used in the visual depiction of power?, the artists’ in Shifting the Political bring awareness to the breath of power’s definition and its proximity to us all.
-Ariel Shanberg, 2004
to return to the 2004 Exhibition Archives, click here