The appearance of ‘sensitive’ photographic imagery in the public domain continues to stir debates about whether more controls should be put in place. Is it appropriate, for example, to print in a magazine the CCTV footage of two-year-old Jamie Bulger being led away to his death, particularly at a time when one of his killers recently re-emerged in the media headlines? And how should an art gallery censor which images may be deemed offensive? While CCTV footage, passive as it is, can unwittingly capture a problematic event, photographers select their subject. Tate Modern’s exhibition Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera reminds us how tortured the relationship between photography and privacy remains. Often there is a potential political dimension to this too, as can be seen in, say, Trevor Paglen’s explorations of secret military infrastructures or Jonathan Olley’s photographs of fortified police towers in Northern Ireland.
Photographers rightly assert their rights to photograph in public places in the face of increasing restrictions, but how about cartoons? The boundaries of acceptability have often been tested – two recent examples being the cartoon in the Danish paper Jyllands-Postern depicting the Prophet Muhammed with a bomb-shaped turban and New Yorker magazine’s cover with Barack Obama in Muslim garb. Ironically, the outcries can lead to re-enforcing the stereotyping of the subjects that the critics try to protect. Such is the power of satire. Can we now, taking a more mundane example, imagine John Major without thinking about Steve Bell’s cartoons? As was shown in Tate Britain’s survey exhibition Rude Britannia: British Comic Art, satire has a habit of going for the jugular. The eighteenth-century caricaturist James Gillray was persistently vitriolic towards royalty and parliament, and his prints make today’s practitioners appear tame by comparison. Luckily for Gillray, George III’s reaction to many of his works was simply ‘I don’t understand’. If only things were so simple now.
Bice Curiger and Simon Grant
In this issue
His projects have included pushing a block of ice around Mexico City until it melted, letting a fox loose in the National Gallery, London, at night and persuading 500 Peruvians to move a giant sand dune by shovel. He has worked with a wide variety of media such as painting, video projection, animation and sculpture to produce art that can seem as ephemeral as it is poetic. Francis Alÿs sees himself akin to a story-teller: “If the story is right, if it hits a nerve, it can propagate like a rumour.” Tate Etc. explores his work on the eve of his retrospective at Tate Modern.
Carol Rama, the Italian self-taught artist born in 1918, has only recently gained international recognition for her highly erotic, visceral works. As Tate Etc. finds out on a recent visit to her Turin studio, her turbulent life played a large part in shaping her extraordinary output
Civilian and military surveillance, mobile phone photography, celebrity snaps… the clandestine photographer has a long history. To coincide with a large Tate Modern survey of such images from the late nineteenth century to the present day, Tate Etc. brings together a selection of photographers, filmmakers and writers to explore how familiar themes of eroticism, fame and conflict continue to pose the question: who is looking at whom?
Rude Britannia: British Comic Art:, Tate Britain’s forthcoming exhibition exploring the riotous history of humour in British visual culture over the past three centuries, from Gillray to David Shrigley, is being organised with a team of comic writers and cartoonists, including Harry Hill and Steve Bell. Tate Etc. brings together one of the curators, the co-editor of Viz, an artist and a comic historian to celebrate the genre.
He was a member of the Communist Party and a tireless political activist and campaigner for peace in the post-war period, but how did Pablo Picasso reflect this in his art?
Fiona Banner: For the latest Duveens Commission at Tate Britain, Fiona Banner installs a large new work that reflects her continuing interest in war and the language that surrounds it.
Individual reflections on a work in the Tate collection
Henrietta Garnett, a regular visitor to the Tate archive, recognises two painted calendars done by her grandmother Vanessa Bell.
‘A call reached me from somewhere across the fields (a call that disappeared almost imperceptibly, like a shooting star, so that in the end it seemed to have arisen from deep within my own breast)…’ Pier Paolo Pasolini
The Dutch artist is best known for her colourful and playful wall drawings that have a childlike energy and exuberant charm. On the eve of her summer exhibition at Tate St Ives, she talks about how art should be enjoyed by everyone.
To coincide with the exhibition of Gerard Byrne’s new film work A Thing Is A Hole In A Thing It Is Not, currently on show at Lismore Castle Arts, and his film installation 1984 and Beyond, recently purchased by Tate and now on display at Tate Britain, Tate Etc. talks to the artist about some of the ideas behind both works.