I've pulled the above images from a New York Times story on the "atomic cameramen" who filmed and photographed the test detonations of nuclear bombs in the 40s and 50s (before the ban on atmospheric testing was put into place). Many of the image makers died of cancer later in their lives. Image #2 in the above sequence pictures the "V.I.P. observers" of the detonations at one of the viewing decks that were set up by the government. It is also pertinent to note that a lot of the cameras, film stock and lenses used were later sold commercially for use by Hollywood studios; a reminder of how military R&D often trickles down and drives technological change in the entertainment industry.
Was invited to make a contribution to the 40th issue of PUBLIC (a journal of 'Art, Culture & Idea's published by the Goldfarb Centre for Fine Arts in York University, Toronto) which went by the title: Screens. They featured the auditorium image from Maratha Mandir below. Do check out the journal if you get a chance to, there are some interesting texts and images/artworks that interrogate and investigate the shifting nature of screens themselves as well as their influence in changing—and often conflating—the "public" and "private" spheres.
From the editorial note:
"PUBLIC 40: Screens features twenty artists, curators and researchers who investigate and respond to new spaces of viewing and changing patterns of consumption —from Quebec to Palestine, from streets to galleries— with a variety of aesthetic, technological and distribution tactics. From Kelly Mark’s The Kiss to Elaine Ho and Sean Smith’s project responding to the Beijing Olympics, from Bruno Lessard’s essay about Robert Lepage’s Le Moulin à images to Holly Lewis’s "Wars of Air and Electricity," Screens is dedicated to the ways screens are used, viewed, imagined, placed, and made worldwide."I was particularly taken by an image from Canadian artist Kelly Mark's installation The Kiss, which I have taken the liberty to copy and paste below.
Kelly Mark, The Kiss (2007)
On her website Kelly writes: "The light source for this work was created by simply recording the cast light of a gang bang scene in a hard core porn film as it bathed my apartment wall while viewing. No image or sound was captured only the reflected light. The porn genre tends to be fairly routine and pragmatic in terms of editing, therefore the resulting glow is steady and rhythmic with few camera changes but with quickening pulses of colour...mainly pinks, oranges and red hues."
I really love it.
It's one of those images where I'm sure that you don't really need the text at all, the caption itself, being so evocative, does a lot of the work. And yet, some people would like to know this. The artist herself clearly believes that it is important to know this. It is always interesting to think about just how 'context', such as the kind Kelly has provided, changes the way you read and experience an image. Personally, I constantly battle with myself as to whether it is necessary to put contextual information beside a particular image, because sometimes context can override the subjective reaction a viewer has with the image; and yet, often it is so important to know why/where/whom/what/how.
It's also perhaps worth thinking about titles/captions that reference other titles/cations and how artists can use that to not merely reference but 'update' images to their cultural time and place. With regards to Kelly Mark's work, Gustav Klimt's The Kiss comes to mind:
Gustav Klimt, The Kiss (1908)