A Provisional History of the Technical Image, 1844–2018
Curated by Walead Beshty, the exhibition "Picture Industry" explores the rich history of mechanically reproduced imagery from the 19th century to the present. It reflects upon transformations in the production, distribution, and consumption of photographic images as realized through its varied constructions of the corporeal, from its origin as a scientific tool and a means of cultural investigation to its phenomenological effects on the viewer. The exhibition complexifies traditional accounts of the medium, drawing on its application within science and the humanities to contemporary art, and includes works and photographic documents by over 100 artists and practitioners spanning the late 19th century to the present.
To accompany and extend the exhibition, "Picture Industry—A Provisional History of the Technical Image, 1844–2018" is a major anthology of historic and contemporary writings by over 200 contributors, providing a rigorous and expansive survey of the photographic medium from its inception to our current moment. It offers a resource through which to consider dominant threads in aesthetic theory, including selections from structuralist and poststructuralist explorations of representation, to German media theory, the study of cultural techniques, and the still-burgeoning realm of new media theory. Rather than attempting a definitive history, the publication posits an alternative approach to the myriad questions and debates associated with representation, presenting its technological history as inextricable from the social history of media, and staging this through the complex and multivalent relationship between the photographic image and the body, whether the body of the viewer, or that of the image. It includes excerpts and reprints of seminal texts, facsimiles of historical publications, and a series of edited conversations with artists Stan Douglas, Hito Steyerl, Martha Rosler, Stephen Shore, and Wolfgang Tillmans.