Fotografiska Museet Stockholm , Moderna Museet Stockholm , Nederlands Fotomuseum , Tramway Glasgow With the exhibition Fish Story, American artist Allan Sekula reconstructed a realist model of photographic representation, while taking a critical stance towards traditional documentary photography. Though there is a long artistic tradition of depicting harbors, ships and coastlines, few contemporary artists are continuing it. In Fish Story Sekula picked up this tradition, demonstrating the history and future of maritime space not only as a visual space but also as a socio-economic one. Fish Story was his third project in a related cycle of works that deal with the imaginary and actual geography of the advanced capitalistic world.
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This exhibition was the third in a cycle of works on the imaginary and material geographies of the advanced capitalist world. Sites were chosen for reasons that were whimsical as well as thematic. In general the choices were predicated on a search for past and present centers of maritime power, as well as more peripheral zones, often those that have been subjugated to a single power, as has been the case with Mexico, or those that have endured a history of being caught between greater powers, as the case with Korea and Poland.
The final sequence of chapters, and of pictures and texts within chapters, has been virtually identical in both exhibition and book. In the exhibition, color photographs had been organized in sequence over a series of walls and rooms with 26 text panels interspersed at varying distances from the pictures. On a graphic level, these text panels had been the black-and-white photographic companions to the color pictures. The spatial relationship of image to image, image to text, and text to text necessarily takes a different form within the pages of a book.
Furthermore, the book allows for the inclusion of another, parallel text, and becomes an altogether different object, published in its entirety in the catalogue to that exhibition. The projections were designed to introduce a markedly different temporal and pictorial experience from that elicited by the images and texts on the walls.
The second version was also exhibited in , at the Fotobienal of Vigo, Spain.
Allan Sekula — Fish Story
The trilogy continued in —6, with Geography Lesson: Canadian Notes, a reflection on Canada, its industrial economy, and its fraught relationship with its more powerful neighbour. Completed between and , the third instalment of this trilogy, the exhibition and book project Fish Story fig. The significance of the project was recognised soon after its appearance, yet it has been the focus of relatively little extended commentary since, despite being regularly described as a seminal work on the theme of globalisation. The whole ensemble was later exhibited at the Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, in , and then at Documenta 11 in , curated by Okwui Enwezor, where it appeared considerably less isolated than at the Whitney Biennial nine years earlier, taking its place among a large number of photographic and documentary film works. Staten Island Ferry. New York Harbor. While commodity chains have proliferated exponentially, their links have become both more numerous and more fragile as a result of such trends as the dissociation of brand ownership from factory ownership, and the relocation of factory work to ad hoc, clandestine Export Processing Zones in the global South as well as subterranean sweatshops in the North.
Fish Story [PDF]
Steve Edwards Steve Edwards Allan Sekula: Fish Story Emergence in conditions of emergency Allan Sekula, who sadly died in , was for almost forty years a towering figure of the intellectual and cultural left. Photographer, theorist, filmmaker and activist, Sekula pro- duced his first significant works in the s, as a student at the University of Califor- nia, San Diego. Initially performing art actions, like his immediate circle, he was drawn to photography. I began to think that it might be possible to photograph everyday life — leaving a factory or housework — as if it were a perfor- mance. Somewhere between conscious comportment towards the camera and bad acting, the characters populate stories drawn from experi- ence. Reassessing the situation led him back to documentary, albeit in expanded and reworked form.