photography at work shows the work of the late american artist allan sekula, an influential photographer, writer, filmmaker, theorist and critic who died in 2013. sekula's works have been a unique reference in debates and conversations about photography, art and politics for over 40 years.
photography at work will feature over fifty photographic works, slide shows and videos selected from the breadth of allan sekula’s artistic practice, and revisited through a set questions that has informed his work and that continue to be relevant today: what can photography do and what is at work with this specific medium? how does photography serve to legitimize and normalize existing power relationships? what havens and temporary escapes from the realm of necessity are provided by photographic means? what resistances are encouraged and strengthened? how is historical and social memory preserved, transformed, restricted and obliterated by photographs? what futures are promised; what futures are forgotten? as sekula himself contended, these questions concern in the broadest sense “the ways in which photography constructs an imaginary economy.” (sekula, a. (1983) “reading an archive: photography between labor and capital” in mining photographs and other pictures, 1948-1968; buchloh, b. h. d. and wilkie, r. (eds); nova scotia college of art and design press)
sekula formulated these questions, amongst many others, in the earliest stages of his artistic life. acknowledging the photographic medium as a tool for power in our contemporary context, sekula reminds us that the photographic project has been identified from the beginning with “the establishment of global archives and repositories according to models provided by libraries, encyclopedias, zoological and botanical gardens, museums, police files and banks; and that those in their very archival purpose embody the power inherent in accumulation, collection and hoarding as well as the power inherent in the lexicon and rules of a language".
this exhibition identifies echoes and genealogies within sekula’s photographic, textual and filmic work in order to highlight the ways in which the long-term vision of his research and obsessions make his work highly pertinent today.
allan sekula (january 15, 1951 – august 10, 2013) was an american photographer, writer, filmmaker, theorist and critic. born in 1951 in erie, pennsylvania, of polish and english descent, he moved with his family to san pedro, california in the early 1960s. he graduated with his mfa from the university of california, san diego, in 1974, after having obtained his ba in biology from the same institution. he began making art in the early 1970s, staging performances, building installations, and producing photo series. he
published in 1983 a seminal collection of essays and photographs that transformed the conception of photography and established him as a renowned figure in contemporary photography. since his death, his work has experienced a surge in institutional acquisition, interest and exposure, generating a series of international exhibitions.
from 1985 until his death in 2013, sekula taught at california institute of the arts (calarts). his work frequently focused on large economic systems, or "the imaginary and material geographies of the advanced capitalist world." he received fellowships and grants from the guggenheim foundation, national endowment for the arts, getty research institute, deutsche akademischer austauschdienst (daad), atelier calder and was named a 2007 usa broad fellow.
allan sekula's recent solo exhibitions include, allan sekula: aerospace folktales and other stories, 2017, columbus museum of art ; allan sekula – okeanos, 2017, tba21–augarten, vienna; fish story, to be continued at the ntu centre for contemporary art singapore, gillman barracks, singapore (2015); dockers' museum, johan jacobs museum, zürich, switzerland (2014); meditations on a tritpych, stedelijk museum, amsterdam, netherlands (2013); allan sekula: disassembled movies, akbank sanat, istanbul, (2012) ; ship of fools, ludwig museum, budapest, hungary (2010), performance under working conditions; buchloh, b. h. d, dietrich k. and breitwieser s. (eds); generali foundation, (2003).
selected group exhibitions include the museum of modern art, new york (2015); lealrios foundation, lisbon, portugal (2015); whitney biennial, whitney museum of american art, new york (2014); victoria & albert museum, london, england (2014); maxxi national museum of xxi century arts, rome, italy (2014); 55th venice biennale, catalan pavilion (2013); 29th bienal de são paulo, brazil (2010); and documenta xii and xi, kassel, germany (2007 and 2002); centre pompidou (2006, 1996), whitney museum (2006, 2002, 1993, 1976); generali foundation, vienna (2010, 2007, 2006, 2003), macba, barcelone (2004, 2001, 2012); winterthur foto museum (2001); foto institute rotterdam (2001, 1997).
his work is in the collections of the j. paul getty museum, los angeles, ca; museo de arte reina sofia, madrid, spain; museum of modern art, new york, ny; tate, london, uk; thyssen-bornemisza art contemporary, vienna, austria; museum of contemporary art san diego, san diego; and walker art center, minneapolis, among others.