Talking Pictures: Camera-Phone Conversations between Artists

Art Scene

Talking Pictures: Camera-Phone Conversations between Artists

Talking Pictures: Camera-Phone Conversations between Artists, on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, is an eclectic tour through the world of cell phone images shared between pairs of highly regarded contemporary visual artists. 12 artists were commissioned by The Met to invite another artist to join them in a visual conversation over the course of five months, the only rules of engagement being: 1) no sharing on social media, 2) no writing messages, and 3) no captioning of images.

Nicole Eisenman (American, born 1965), Image from dialogue with A. L. Steiner, sent 4/1/2017. Digital photograph.

The results of the experiment, conducted between November 2016 and April 2017, aim to examine mobile phone photography as a means of communication and connection, as artworks exhibited in a museum context, and how culture at large can move along with the ubiquitous evolution of images in contemporary societies around the globe.

William Wegman (American, born 1943), Image from dialogue with Tony Oursler, sent 11/21/2016. Digital photograph.

The exhibition is interactive and features all small scale imagery, perhaps a simulation of the experience of mobile phone technology in general. Image sizes range from about 3”x 4” to 20”x20”, roughly, and are presented casually as photographs pinned to walls, video screen slideshows, and on iPad-sized monitors that require viewers to swipe. In a nod to old school technologies, a few of the image sequences shared between artists are presented as books with the name of the artist and the date accompanying each image. Seating and tables are provided where small screens and books are installed so that visitors can relax into the work, possibly signaling the future of exhibition design in the digital age.

Sanford Biggers (American, born 1970), Image from dialogue with Shawn Peters, sent 1/15/17. Digital photograph.

Three distinct series between artists seem to have a clear thesis. Manjari Sharma and Irina Rozovsky organized their visual dialogue around the coincidence that they were both pregnant and due within 2 weeks of each other. The series is installed as approximately 100 images pinned to a gallery wall showing an exchange of random personal daily life images that culminate in the birth of their infants.

Cynthia Daignault and Daniel Heidkamp intentionally chose painting as their subject for the Talking Pictures project. All of their images feature full frame photographs of paintings.

Although it is not known if the focus of the work of Sanford Biggers and Shawn Peters was pre-determined, or if it unfolded organically, their series seems to speak the most directly to photography as an art form. Many of their images of landscapes, cityscapes, architecture, and street photography, display gorgeous renderings of formal qualities including: line, color, light and shadow, depth of field, and the use of black and white filters.

Wu Zhang (Chinese, born 1977), Image from dialogue with Cao Fei, sent 11/11/2016. Digital photograph.

Despite the experimental and loosely structured nature of the Talking Pictures project and exhibition, what may be most easily gleaned from the work is the preoccupations and preferences of individual artists – politics, family, aesthetics, or simply arbitrariness.

Talking Pictures: Camera-Phone Conversations between Artists is on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art through 12/17/17.