At least since Delacroix, when the camera provided a modem technique for getting direct images of the world (Journal, May 21, 1853), photographs have been in the hands of artists. They were, as Delacroix saw, images of the world unmediated by the conventions of painting; these were followed, later in the 19th century, by the wide distribution of works of art by photographic reproductions. This was defined by Walter Benjamin in Marxist terms in the 20s and celebrated later by André Malraux in terms of the camera's autonomous pictorial values. In the 20s, collages and photo-montage, new works of art produced by photography, were abundant.
The present exhibition/catalogue clarifies with a new intensity the uses of photography, in a spectrum that ranges from documentation to newly minted works. Some photographs are the evidence of absent works of art, other photographs constitute themselves works of art, and still others serve as documents of documents. This last area was the subject of an exhibition at the Kunsthalle, Bern, last year, Plans and projects as art, a survey of diagrams, proposals, propositions, programs, and signs of signs. Bernar Venet's book which is a profile of his "exploited" documents since 1966 demonstrates this possibility. The different usages are immense: for example, Douglas Huebler documents place not duration, whereas Dennis Oppenheim's piece is sequential, a chart of time-changes. One thing everybody has in common should be noted: there is an anti-expertise, anti-glamourous quality about all the photographs here. Their factual appearance is maintained through even the most problematic relationships.
One of the uses of photography is to provide the coordinates of absent works of art. Earthworks, for example, such as Robert Smithson's, can sometimes be experienced on the spot, but not for long and____________________