New Acquisitions:

Local and Global Contemporary Photography through May 30, 2005

In an attempt to discover how the “local” becomes applicable in a globalized world, this exhibition of African, American and Chinese contemporary photography presents artists whose work can transcend local imagery into global relevance. Art and Culture that works on a global scale may reside in a viewer’s search for a universal “authentic,” which is missing from empty global culture based on the common denominators of commercial culture. Samuel Fosso, Jurgen Schadeberg, Bernie Searle (performance artist), Malick Sidibé and Sukhdeo Bobson Mohanlall represent the breadth of contemporary African photography including studio, street, and conceptual photography. The American photographers include Melonie Bennett, Tanja Hollander, Jocelyn Lee, Scott Peterman, and Sa Schloff who are all associated with the Bakery Photo Cooperative in Portland, Maine. The Chinese photographers include Weng Fen, Zhou Hai, Jiang Jing, Zhou Ming, Liu Xiaodi, Zhang Xinmin, Luo Yiongjin, Lu Yuanmin and Gu Zheng. Many of these images portray a rapidly changing Chinese culture. These photographers tend to create images based on localized issues. Yet, when viewed outside of the “local” in a different context they offer experiences that audiences may long for such as leisure time and youth or decisions such as political transformation and commercialization one may have to face in an increasingly globalized world.

What makes a photographic image resonate beyond the local? Does it need to? In these photographs does the recording of a specific place such as Bamako, Bejing, Scarborough, or Sophiatown speak to audiences outside of their respected cities or countries?

Portraiture can transcend the subject’s experience to the viewer but on what levels do we react to a self-portrait by Samuel Fosso? Many of these images such as Lu Yuanmon’s offer an insight into the construction of identity by a particular person (a Shanghailander) in a specific place (Shanghai). Others record traditional and contemporary culture clashing or being reconciled as in Weng Fen’s photographs. Is there a certain “authenticity” to the photographic conditions in which these images were produced, or does it depend on the viewer’s response? Such conditions could include the relationship between photographer and viewer/landscape and between subject/settings and the design of the image. Is it possible that the aura of what we (as consumers of culture and commodities) perceive as “authentic” or in common parlance “real” or “reality,” such as Petermen’s ice shacks or Xinmin’s images of a fast changing China, are the type of images being appropriated and manipulated for global commercialization that seems dependent on the local for validation?