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Perpetual Revolution at International Center of Photography

Art Scene

Perpetual Revolution at International Center of Photography

In a rapidly evolving media landscape, the dissemination and consumption of information, as image and text, is a hot topic. Perpetual Revolution: The Image and Social Change, the International Center of Photography’s latest exhibition, examines this issue in a pointed summation – climate change, refugees, police brutality, the gender revolution, and jihadist and alt- right propaganda, are explored through the lens of technology and social media in six discreet sections.

ISIS distributes school supplies to girls in Mosul, Iraq, 2015 – Video

In an era where terms like “fake news” and “post-truth” are testing and pushing the boundaries of conventional thought, what it means to be human remains the philosophical question of the moment. In this exhibition, content created by citizen journalists, citizen artists, media manipulators, activists, refugees, and others is featured in a space densely populated with video screens, wall text, photographs, and art.

Kristen Parker Lovell, Kristen Parker Lovell (left) and Kenyatta Kahn (right), from Trans in Media 2 (still), 2015 – Video © Kristen Parker Lovell

A handful of large-scale installations in the two-floor exhibition help to balance an abundance of small video screens (iPads and iPhones included) that mimic the amount of technological sharing people are confronted with in their daily lives. Upon entering the exhibition, a video projected on an entire wall that has been viewed on YouTube over 40 million times, of the largest recorded collapsing iceberg, anchors the Climate Change section. James Balog, founder of Extreme Ice Survey, filmed the event, and many others, recognizing the importance of compelling imagery as a tool to create awareness around climate change issues.

James Balog, Chasing Ice, 2012 Video © 2016 Chasing Inc, LLC

The next room is dedicated to, The Flood: Refugees and Representation. At the center, a standalone table with a one-inch lip filled with limestone powder evokes the limestone of the Syrian-Turkish border. Created by artist Hakan Topal, the surface acts as a flat horizontal screen for video of heartbreaking scenes of refugee life projected down from the ceiling. Nearby, a wall installation of nine video monitors offers an incredible image of refugees at sea on a small boat headed for Greece. 

Sergey Ponomarev [Refugees arrive by a Turkish boat near the village of Skala, on the Greek Island of Lesbos], November 16, 2015 Digital image, 9 monitors – Original photograph © Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Downstairs, the Propaganda and the Islamic State section presents a series of video screens installed across a curved black wall. From iPhones to small monitors, each with a set of headphones, an opportunity to listen to and view the sophisticated media strategy that drives ISIS propaganda is presented in hopes of demystifying its power.

Sheila Pree Bright, #1960Now: Art + Intersection [still], 2015 – Video © Sheila Pree Bright

Next door, the Black Lives (Have Always) Mattered room features a salon style installation of black and white photographs of ordinary day-to-day life of African Americans, two large-scale black and white video montages of current and historical civil rights discourse and protest, and a multichannel video installation featuring thirty monitors hanging in a grid from the ceiling. The monitors play a mix of social justice and policing footage, television snow, and social media messages in an engagingly timed arrangement of image, text, and color.

ICP’s mission to present the social and historic impact of visual culture is also captured in the area of the exhibition dedicated to The Right-Wing Fringe and the 2016 Election. Interestingly, a large portion of the footage in the section The Fluidity of Gender presents music and performance as key markers of social change, a noticeable difference from all of the other sections. Collectively, Perpetual Revolution offers a sobering and mesmerizing experience in a compact presentation that is both overwhelming and eye opening, alienating and intimate.

Perpetual Revolution: The Image and Social Change is on view through May 7, 2017.