‘Public, Private, Secret’ at the International Center of Photography

Art Scene

‘Public, Private, Secret’ at the International Center of Photography

Public, Private, Secret, the International Center of Photography’s inaugural exhibition in their new space at 250 Bowery, is an exercise in sensory overload. Purposefully curated to reflect the multitude of available information in contemporary culture, the exhibition is a voyeur’s paradise.

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Cindy Sherman, Untitled, 1979, International Center of Photography, Gift of Photographers + Friends United Against AIDS, 1998. © Cindy Sherman, courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures

The intention behind the multimedia work in ICP’s first floor and lower level galleries delves into photography’s role in structuring and evolving boundaries between public and private space since the 19th century, as well as a larger conversation around the concept of privacy, identity and visibility in the Internet age.

In one 19th century image, legendary abolitionist and women’s rights activist, Sojourner Truth, is pictured in a portrait photograph, seated, looking candidly at the viewer. The image, which was duplicated at the time for what appears to be promotional purposes, includes a quote at the bottom that reads, “I SELL THE SHADOW TO SUPPORT THE TRUTH.” In today’s culture of all style and no substance, this image is a reminder of the surface nature of imagery so prevalent in culture today.

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Unidentified Photographer

Artists and photographers in the show range from Andy Warhol, Weegee and Henri Cartier-Bresson to Kim Kardashian. However, the first series of works encountered is a set of four videos projected on walls and large partitions that divide the first floor space. Created by a handful of artists, the videos represent subjective, abstract and impressionistic work that in some cases splices found imagery and video into complex visual statements on digital imagery.

With 150 works by 50 artists, Public, Private, Secret has a series of digital montages presented on square screens scattered throughout the lower level. These works address topics including morality, physical transformation and privacy in the context of what happens online. Who is shaming whom in terms of moral codes? How are physical appearance and its transformation made visible online? And, how much of what was considered private say, 50 years ago, is now available for public consumption? Additional works that pull directly from real-time social media feeds are scattered throughout the space as well.

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Natalie Bookchin, My Meds, from the Testament series, 2009. © Natalie Bookchin

The work, Trust, a video piece by artist Jill Magid, addresses another topic that is central to the exhibition, surveillance and the plethora of cameras that now inhabit daily life unbeknownst to most people. The video depicts a lone woman in a red coat walking with her eyes closed through the streets of Liverpool, England. Filmed on CCTV by local police using public surveillance cameras, the collaborative work was staged and edited by Magid after she developed a relationship with an organization called Citywatch, comprised of Merseyside Police and Liverpool City Council, whose purpose is to conduct citywide video surveillance.

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Jill Magid, Trust (video still), from Evidence Locker, 2004. © Jill Magid

Public, Private, Secret is meant to push boundaries and challenge visitors to take note of today’s image-centric world, its implications in our daily lives, and perhaps underneath it all, what it means to give so much information away for free, visual and otherwise, online. Duggal congratulates our friends at ICP on putting together a remarkable first exhibition in their beautiful new space. Public, Private, Secret is on display through Jan. 8, 2017.