This project is the next phase in the artistic development of Walker Evans’ photographic record of Alabama in 1936, created by Phil Hackett in 2014.
Walker Evans photographed the Burroughs, a family of share-croppers in Depression era Alabama. In 1979 Sherrie Levine rephotographed Walker Evans’ photographs from the exhibition catalogue “First and Last.” and in 2001 Michael Mandiberg scanned these same photographs, and created AfterWalkerEvans.com and AfterSherrieLevine.com to facilitate their dissemination as a comment on how we come to know information in this burgeoning digital age.
Sherrie Levine’s post-modern assertion is that one could rephotograph an image and create something new in the process, she critiques the modernist notion of originality (though it creates an alternate post-modern originality in the process.) In dialogue with the theorist Walter Benjamin, who explored the relationship of reproduction and artistic authenticity, he argues that the reproduction becomes the authentic experience.
Yet for Benjamin, reproduction destroyed the physical sacredness of the object, and made it useful to those who could not own such objects. Levine, on the other hand, has made her object even more sacred as her work is much harder to find than Evans’ originals — it is almost never reproduced, and exists only in museums and private collections. She avoids publicity and reproduction of her own images ostensibly to avoid “myth-making” yet this lack of information creates exactly what she is attempting to avoid — anonymity creates attention and a type of artist ego, it does not efface this.
In 2001 Michael Mandiberg scanned these same photographs, and created AfterWalkerEvans.com and AfterSherrieLevine.com to facilitate their dissemination as a comment on how we come to know information in this burgeoning digital age.
Mandiberg created a browsable selection of these images with links to high-resolution exhibition-quality images to download and print out. Along with a certificate of authenticity for each image, which can be printed and signed by yourself (as the owner of the work), with directions on how to frame the image so that it will fulfill the requirements of the certificate of authenticity.
By building the image’s URL into the title - the Mandiberg images are locatable and downloadable by anyone who sees or reads about the image. By distributing the images on-line with certificates of authenticity, they are accessible by anyone. Unlike the work of the late Felix Gonzalez-Torres (known for his spills of candy and stacks of paper from which the viewer can take a piece of, though the sculpture stays complete because the owner possesses the certificate of authenticity, the right to reproduce) the certificates Mandiberg used are to insure that each satellite image be considered with equal authenticity, not the opposite. This is an explicit strategy to create a physical object with cultural value, but little or no economic value.
Hackett’s approach in 2014 to the future of these images will be announced as soon as he has clarified it in his own head on AfterMichaelMandiberg.com.