Monday, December 29, 2008

year-end notes towards 2009

As I focus increasingly on matters other than art (but with an eye towards getting the Atlanta art world through the year ahead of us) I find myself attracted to exhibitions for anything but artistic reasons. (Conceptually based art includes the theoretical agenda; I'm talking about exhibitions that ought to be viewed on formalist or documentary terms when it comes to the works themselves.)

Richard Fleming's "Walking to Guantanamo" photographs, opening at Whitespace on January 16, are the case in point here. Fleming apparently walked across Cuba, taking pictures and recording his own impressions of life half a century after the Revolution.

Having mined more than one exhibition of photographs of Cuba for evidence that the photographer wasn't looking for, I've gotten used to the pre-editing eye of the would-be perceiver. Thanks to Fleming's account of his travels, we have the verbal account that helps us to evaluate the visual evidence. (That's to say, we have more evidence of what Fleming saw and why he saw it, versus all the things he didn't notice and that we have no way of knowing about.)

Anyone who has read such books as V. S. Naipaul's A Turn in the South or journalistic accounts in whatever newspaper you choose to cite has intuitively learned the structures of interest and omission without having had to read the theory behind the perception. It's obvious that nobody ever gets the whole story; the whole story does not exist, because there are too many versions of the story, more versions than there are perceivers of it.

But quixotic ventures like Fleming's walk to Guantanamo add visual and verbal information that sometimes proves illuminating as well as visually beautiful. (He looks to be a good photographer.)

Fleming's book may well get things wrong for all I know (I haven't seen a word of it), but to paraphrase Wittgenstein, that too will be a useful piece of information.

I for one am happy that Whitespace is carrying on and that other galleries are hunkering down to get through the financial tempest already buffeting them.