A Different Kind of Order: The ICP Triennial

Oliver Laric, Versions, 2010, HD color video, 9 minutes.
Oliver Laric, Versions, 2010, HD color video, 9 minutes.


“A Different Kind of Order,” the Fourth ICP Triennial, finds itself in a much digitized and image-overloaded world—a state more intensely felt than in any previous installments and made all the more apparent by the show’s default medium specificity. Recognizing the futility of deploying any overarching theory, the curatorial team in this iteration has opted instead to register the increasingly multivalent and networked nature of contemporary image production. Yet in a world where the Internet functions not only as artists’ source and tool but also as a zeitgeist barometer (case in point: Aaron Swartz and Taryn Simon’s collaborative project imageatlas.org, which indexes the top images returned for given search phrases by a variety of international search engines), the more memorable works in this compact presentation of twenty-eight international artists maneuver against the indiscriminateness of the ever-expanding data-sphere, while at the same time exploiting its free-for-all bountifulness.

Here, collage and photographic drawing continue to mediate imaginations of identity, locales (Huma Bhabha’s ghostly marks drawn over landscapes of hometown Karachi), and dislocation—as in Walid Raad’sScratching on Things I Could Disavow: A History of Art in the Arab World, 2007–ongoing, which wittily problematizes treasures from the Louvre’s Islamic wing on loan to the institution’s Abu Dhabi branch. Meanings of “found images” are renewed in the unintentionally aestheticized pixelation of the Dutch government’s camouflaging of sensitive areas on Google Maps (stumbled upon by Mishka Henner), or the crudely shot clips of “citizen journalism” at the heart and heated moments of the Syrian conflict, salvaged from the Internet by Rabih Mroué. Artists working with analog photography foreground their works’ physicality as results of experimental developing processes, be it Sam Falls’s prolonged exposure of dyed, boulder-wrapping fabrics in the wilderness or Shimpei Takeda’s poignant “contact printing” involving radioactive contaminated soil, post-Fukushima. Idiosyncratic yet candid documentations by Gideon Mendel, Sam Foglia, and Mikhael Subotzky collaborating with Patrick Waterhouse expose unfamiliar conditions of contemporary living shaped by forces natural, ideological, and geopolitical, respectively. Anthropocentric and sometimes archive-minded, these projects collectively counter our skewed focus on affairs and disasters in cultural hot spots; efforts to learn their backstories will prove rewarding. The show’s most trenchant pieces, however, probe the algorithms of today’s image aggregation and dissemination rather than merely mirroring their form or magnitude. Shuffling parallels that range from Greek and Roman models of classical antiquity to identical animation sequences recycled in different Disney narratives to spreads in the acclaimed manga Slam Dunk and their NBA-photography prototypes, Oliver Laric’s visually rich, punchy video also explores the distinctive language and psyche of internet memes—among the liveliest forms of contemporary cultural production. Accompanying the video, we find a robotic-toned sound track that muses in lines of sharp wit: “Same, same, but different.” After all, discerning patterns amid the chaos of boundless information is but one of our most exciting intellectual capacities.

–Xin Wang

05.17.13-09.08.13 International Center of Photography

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