What should we be looking at? The extraordinary number of photographs taken on September 11 made it the most photographed event in history and may have signaled the birth of citizen journalism. However in our impulse to record, we have not formulated new strategies to gain a better understanding of today’s pressing issues of a globalized world.
As traditional print journalism was threatened, and the number of images published online has exploded into the billions (sixty billion on Facebook alone), we have been left with few common sources of news and analysis. There is no longer a “front page” to act as a societal filter through which, we can learn about important events and trends. Even the role that the physical café once played in our communities—the place we went to discuss and digest what’s going on around us — has become fragmented across a myriad of virtual spaces.
Where should we turn for our information? How can we function as a society with so few common reference points? How can we intelligently sort through all the images and information available to us? In terms of photography and visual information, what should we be looking at?
Ten years post-9/11, at a time when we are more overloaded with information than ever but cannot access it in a coherent manner, Aperture will create a visual café for collective social engagement with the question: What Matter’s Now? and turn it into an evolving exhibition space. During a two-week period Aperture will turn itself “inside out,” letting participants engage in the editorial process of weighing questions, ideas, and images, and proposing conceptual and curatorial solutions. Both invited guests and gallery visitors will be asked to participate. The exhibition What Matters Now? Proposals for a New Front Page will combine the crowd sourcing of images and ideas with the curatorial engagement of six experienced individuals, each hosting a table and a conversation within the space, where on corresponding walls each group will present its proposals for the contents of a ‘New Front Page’. Hosts include a variety of visual image specialists: Wafaa Bilal, Melissa Harris, Stephen Mayes, Joel Meyerowitz, Fred Ritchin (who conceptualized this project) andDeborah Willis.
As the exhibition opens, each of the hosts will have a designated space, but the walls will be empty. Progressively throughout the first two weeks of the “exhibition,” the walls will be filled in whatever manner each table decides. As the exhibition emerges, its contents will be posted online, daily, via a dedicated blog, as well as via Facebook and Twitter, at aperture.org/whatmattersnow and#whatmattersnow; allowing remote participants to respond and to create a seventh wall dedicated to ideas from the public. This website will go live prior to the opening of the exhibition.
Computers, printers, phones and iPads will be used by hosts and audience members for the duration of the exhibition. Materials may be printed, projected, hung and even destroyed as the exhibition progresses. Hosts might decide that what we should all be looking at is a particular Renaissance painting, or the work of particular photojournalists, or a thousand mini print-outs of images sourced online—or nothing at all. Contributions will be solicited from people around the world who are not able to visit in person. By sending files to dedicated email addresses set up for each table, as well as a general account, remote participants will be able to add their suggestions of imagery, multimedia projects and websites as part of the exhibition in-process.
Printed work in this exhibition will be made onsite, made possible by the generous support of Canon, using Canon image PROGRAF iPF6350 large format printers.
Exhibition in progress:
September 7–September 17, 2011
Monday-Saturday, 10:00 am-6:00 pm
Saturday, September 17, 4:00–7:00 pm
Exhibition on view:
September 17-September 24
Monday, September 12, 6:00 pm – Melissa Harris and Deborah Willis
Tuesday, September 13, 6:00 pm – Wafaa Bilal and Fred Ritchin
Wednesday, September 14, 6:00 pm– Stephen Mayes and Joel Meyerowitz
Aperture Gallery Hours: Monday–Saturday, 10:00 am–6:00 pm
Aperture Gallery Address: 547 West 27th Street, 4th floor, New York, N.Y. 10001;
(212) 505-5555, www.aperture.org
Wafaa Bilal is an Iraqi-born artist and an Assistant Arts Professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. He specializes in online performative and interactive works. His current project, the 3rdi, features a camera surgically implanted on the back of his head transmitting images to the web.
Melissa Harris is the Editor-in-Chief of Aperture magazine and also editor/curator of select special projects for the Aperture Foundation. She is also a Contributing Editor to Interview Magazine, and occasionally guest-curates, and writes for numerous arts publications.
Stephen Mayes has worked with photography, art and journalism for 25 years. He is currently Managing Director of VII Photo, representing some of the world’s leading photojournalists, and continues to maintain his assignment as co-Secretary to the World Press Photo competition. Stephen regularly writes and broadcasts on the ethics and realities of photographic practice.
Joel Meyerowitz is an award-winning photographer whose work has appeared in over 350 international exhibitions. He is a two-time Guggenheim fellow, a recipient of both NEA and NEH awards, as well as a recipient of the Deutscher Fotobuchpreis. He has published over fifteen books, including Cape Light (1978), Legacy: The Preservation of Wilderness in New York City Parks (Aperture, October 2009) and Aftermath: The World Trade Center Archive (2006). He lives in New York and is represented by Edwynn Houk Gallery.
Creator of What Matters Now? Fred Ritchin is the author of After Photography (W. W. Norton, 2009) and In Our Own Image: The Coming Revolution in Photography (Aperture 1990/2010). He is professor of Photography & Imaging at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, as well as director of PixelPress, creating web sites, books and exhibitions investigating new documentary and promoting human rights. For the New York Times Ritchin created a multimedia version of the daily newspaper in 1994-95, and was nominated by them for the Pulitzer Prize in Public Service in 1997 for “Bosnia: Uncertain Paths to Peace,” by Gilles Peress. He has curated numerous shows and writes the blog afterphotography.org.
Deborah Willis is a photographer, writer and curator. Willis is the Chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and has an affiliated appointment as a University Professor with the College of Arts and Sciences in Africana Studies. She has been named 2005 Guggenheim Fellow and Fletcher Fellow, 2000 MacArthur Fellow, and is the recipient of the 1996 Anonymous Was A Woman Foundation Award; the 2010 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work – Biography/Autobiography.