Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Two Views of Yangtze Remembered

Here are two articles on the Butler show: an interview with the artist by Nancy Geyer in this week's Ithaca Times, and a piece by Whine del Rosario written for the Cornell Daily Sun.

Geyer's piece contains some evocative descriptions of individual photographs, as well as useful and interesting information about the experiences of the artist and her human subjects. Butler describes her artistic approach as well. She admits that she "had to give up
taking meditative images that are my signature to focus on the rapidly changing environment". Her new approach, she claims, was "more spontaneous and more intrusive" than with her previous projects. While her landscape images do indeed depict such an environment, there is also a stillness and formal quality to most of them that does seem "meditative" (calm, patient) to me. Even most of the images prominently featuring people do not seem all that spontaneous. Many are clearly stagedas with the before and after shots of Mr. Tan mentioned by Geyeror seem to involve considerable deliberate effort to be in a particular place at a particular time.

Del Rossario is more interested in examining the photographs from the viewer's perspective, an important issue that Geyer doesn't really address. Unfortunately, her writing is sometimes awkward, particularly in its choice of words. Also unsatisfying is her attempt to integrate a heavy-handed philosophical approach into a basically journalistic framework. For example, she claims of the photos that "they compose a way of access into the being of an otherwise intimidating topography". She does make some intriguing claims about the photographs' character. She argues for their subjective, artistic and non-polemical character and against a straightforwardly documentary interpretation. These ideas are potentially interesting, but presented in a way that seems less than fully coherant.

I've found another Sun article, one focusing on the talk rather than the exhibit. There are some remarks by Cornell engineering students.



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