Magazine article Artforum International

"Between Here and There"

Magazine article Artforum International

"Between Here and There"

Article excerpt

If there is any twentieth-century artist whose work has been so thoroughly carved up through such a wild range of readings that you would think no raw meat was left, it is Marcel Duchamp. But a few years back T. J. Demos, in his book The Exiles of Marcel Duchamp, found a theme that made the reader want to reexamine the artist's entire corpus for signs of what Duchamp himself called a "spirit of expatriation," a sense of nomadic homeless-ness that snapped him suddenly into a broader history of the twentieth century's countless flights, migrations, and resettlements. "Between Here and There: Passages in Contemporary Photography," organized by Douglas Eklund, associate curator in the Met's photography department, promises something similar: a mapping of that idea of homelessness, of modern life as "rootless, unfixed ... and unmoored," as Eklund writes, onto the photo-based art of the past fifty or so years. Modest in size, and curated mainly out of the collection, the show is nonetheless suggestive in the route it takes through that particular history.

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Eklund sees a distinction between the art of the 1960s and art since the '80s, when "historical transformations were wreaking havoc upon the old geopolitical certainties. Displacement was no longer simply a formal or structural trope ... but an actual uprooting of individuals and peoples caught up in global strife." That difference needs defending; if there were ever a decade of geopolitical havoc, it was the '60s, and one wonders whether global strife was really absent from the art of the time, or just from the art Eklund chose, or whether it really is absent from the art Eklund chose. Yet the show does set up a tension between a virtual dislocation--the sense of unreality in our mediated electrovisual existence, already established in the '60s and today more enveloping still--and a dislocation not only psychic but physical, the experience of the emigrant or, more painful still, the refugee. The fragile girl, her father's hand protective on her shoulder, in Fazal Sheikh's Hadija and Her Father, Somali Refugee Camp, Mandera, Kenya, 1993, makes an immediate emotional claim, and bonds with Almerisa, a Bosnian exile seen first in Rineke Dijkstra's series of photographs of her as a solemn child of six, I would guess--a little younger than Hadija--in an asylum-seeker's center in the Netherlands, then successively over the years until, as if putting on a costume, she becomes a contemporary teenager. …

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