This limited edition book----the background is here---- goes to the printers (Openbook Howden) on Monday, 25th November. The three people who have worked on this book throughout 2019 ---Adam and Michal Dutkiewicz and myself-- made the final corrections to the preview copy on Friday at Dulwich in Adelaide. Hopefully, Openbook Howden will be able to print the book by mid-December, just in time for Xmas It's official launch will be at an exhibition at the RSASA in March 2020.
It has been a major effort to recover some of the art photography in Adelaide from this period, to then organise the diversity of this work into an art history book that looks and feels good in the hand, and to write an essay on the aesthetics of medium specific modernism and its postmodern negation. It is an about an art photography during the 1970-2000 period that was made in a provincial region outside the Euro-American centres, as well as the major Australian cultural centres in Melbourne and Sydney--it's a critical regionalism, if you like, structured around the the classic dichotomy between centre and periphery.
This is a partial art historical text with critical intent, and it is the second volume in the Moon Arrow Press photography series, the first being the Abstract Photography one that was published in 2017. Both books help to give a sense that there was an autonomous art photography tradition in Adelaide in the late twentieth century, as well as to give some indication of its regional breadth and depth prior to the internationalisation of Australian art after 2000. What emerged after 2000 was an unthinking acceptance that whatever appeared in the top-end galleries and auction houses in the major western (Euro-American) metropolitan cultural centres represented contemporary art.
This autonomous art photography tradition is different to the fragmentary personal work that is sometimes made by the professional commercial/industrial/wedding/fashion photographers who form the photographic industry in their spare (non-work) time. This autonomous art photography tradition refers to a photography that stands outside of, and in opposition to, the photography that is produced for clients by the photographic industry, as well as the photojournalism in the mainstream press. 'Standing outside' or being 'in opposition to' can be interpreted in terms of maintaining and achieving a critical distance to the spectacle economy of capitalist modernity that commercial etc photography is an integral part of.
An autonomous art photography refers to a tradition whose history is marked by an art photography's relationship to/struggle with the commodity form. Autonomous here initially refers to both a special social space, namely both a market in art (the commodification of the art work) and art-institiutional spaces for the exhibition of art. So this is a socially determined autonomy not an art for art's sake autonomy premised on abstract freedom; an autonomy with a condition of dependancy. Since it is a part of the system of language its meaning depends on context and on difference.
The period 1970-2000 was a moment in history where art photographers adapted photography to modernist taste and values, postmodernism negated modernism, and postmodernism with its tropes of pastiche, quotation, appropriation and historicism ended as a period style in art history. It was a period prior to the emergence of what has come to be called contemporary art, as something more than a late modernism that mourns its own anachronism, or as the art of the present moment, or whatever is happening now.
Peter Osborne in his Anywhere or Not At All: Philosophy of Contemporary Art argues that the 'something more than' is minimally post-conceptual: post-conceptual is the best descriptor of the condition of contemporary art that manifests our current contemporaneity. Terry Smith usefully surveys the recent theories of contemporary art.
Adelaide Art Photographers 1970-2000 is a book about a regional photography as an aesthetic product, that enables a contemporary art photography to develop an awareness for its own history and context.