Curated by Walead Beshty, the exhibition “Picture Industry” explores the rich history of mechanically reproduced imagery from the 19th century to the present. It reflects upon transformations in the production, distribution, and consumption of photographic images as realized through its varied constructions of the corporeal, from its origin as a scientific tool and means of cultural investigation to its phenomenological effects on the viewer. The exhibition complexifies traditional accounts of the medium, drawing on its application in science and the humanities to contemporary art, and includes works and photographic documents by over 100 artists and practitioners spanning the late 19th century to the present.
To accompany and extend the exhibition, “Picture Industry—A Provisional History of the Technical Image, 1844–2018” is a major anthology of historic and contemporary writings by over 200 contributors, providing a rigorous and expansive survey of the photographic medium from its inception to now. It offers a resource through which to consider dominant threads in aesthetic theory, including selections from structuralist and poststructuralist explorations of representation, to German media theory, the study of cultural techniques, and the still-burgeoning realm of new media theory. Rather than attempting a definitive history, the publication posits an alternative approach to the myriad questions and debates associated with representation, presenting its technological history as inextricable from the social history of media, and staging this through the complex and multivalent relationship between the photographic image and the body, whether the body of the viewer, or that of the image. It includes excerpts and reprints of seminal texts, facsimiles of historical publications, and a series of edited conversations with artists Stan Douglas, Hito Steyerl, Martha Rosler, and Stephen Shore.
Contributors include Ariella Azoulay, Ericka Beckman, Walter Benjamin, Alphonse Bertillon, Sarah Charlesworth, Walker Evans, Vilém Flusser, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Tristan Garcia, Dan Graham, Morgan Fisher, Lyle Ashton Harris, John Heartfield, Arthur Jafa, László Moholy-Nagy, Marshall McLuhan, Edweard Muybridge, Gordon Parks, Jacob Riis, August Sander, Wolfgang Tillmans, Alan Turing, and Kelley Walker.
Walead Beshty (b. 1976, London, UK) is an artist and theorist working in Los Angeles, and Associate Professor in the Graduate Art Department of Art Center College of Design.
Published with Luma and the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, on the occasion of the exhibition “Picture Industry: A Provisional History of the Technical Image, 1844-2018” at Parc des Ateliers, Luma Arles, Arles, October 13, 2018–January 6, 2019.