Fall 2008 In this Issue
by Mary Magsamen
New discussions do not come from squeezing art into old labels and definitions. Rather, artists shift and blend these definitions, creating new disciplines and new venues for thought. Many artists call their work photography, although they don't use a camera. Technology and tools like Photoshop feed interdisciplinary proliferation as more and more artists recognize that they are no longer constrained by a single medium. While the idea and practice of blending disciplines is hardly new, the word "interdisciplinary" has recently been given a lot of cache. It is unclear whether academics and critics need a new hero, or just a new way of looking at art.
This issue features articles that look at these interdisciplinary approaches to photography and the photographic studio process. Using photography as a foundation or means of presentation, the artists presented in this issue use performance, sculpture, and science to create innovative and compelling art that breaks out of conventional labels and forces us to think. In Photographic Knowing by Tracy Xavia Karner she addresses the question of interdisciplinary as a philosophy uniquely embraced by the University of Houston Visual Studies program. Ragan Cole-Cunningham reflects and explores ideas about the terming of interdisciplinary work through examples of several artists in her essay, Interdisciplinary Approaches to Photography: Ramblings on Interpretation and Self-Reflexive Practices. The artist portfolios by Leigh Anne Langwell and Ariane Roesch exemplify the idea of crossing disciplines to create a new way of working with photography.
Leigh Anne Langwell makes small sculptures and then uses them to create haunting large-scale photograms and installations that engulf a space with oversized references to body and biology. Langwell's background as a medical photographer has obviously impacted the way she looks at her art and process - her images look as though they could be of cells or sperm and eggs, but instead, they are images of sculptures made in the studio and manipulated through the photogram.
Ariane Roesch reverses Langwell's process by taking images and photographs and transforming them into sculptural objects. Roesch reappropriates an image from media such as 1950's advertising, literally cutting and sewing until she has physically rebuilt the image into something visually and conceptually new. Her reinterpretation is playful, colorful, and bursting with beautiful textures. Roesch created new pieces specifically for this issue of SPOT; you can cut out and frame them for yourself.
In refusing to box art into a single discipline, we invite the historical and contemporary context of multiple genres into the interpretation and analysis of a work. Hopefully the distinction and terming of this work as interdisciplinary will expand our dialogue and appreciation of the work, allowing viewers to discuss not only the photographic qualities, but also incorporating ideas about other genres appropriate to the work. The term, interdisciplinary, may or may not be a new hero, but it is definitely one way to tackle the expanding dimensions of the art world.
Mary Magsamen is a visual artist working collaboratively with her husband Stephan Hillerbrand on photography and video projects. Mary is the Curator at the Aurora Picture Show and she also teaches part-time at the University of Houston.