Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel began collaborating as students and continued making work together for almost three decades. In 1977 they published a book featuring images from the archives of American institutions such as NASA, United States Department of the Interior and Jet Propulsion Laboratories. Having scoured the unclassified archives, Sultan and Mandel made a selection of photographs produced to document the activities of these organisations. They then carefully sequenced these records of scientific experiments and technological breakthroughs and presented them without explanatory text or captions. Shown here are 36 of the 59 photographs they selected.
By taking these images from their institutional contexts Sultan and Mandel remove their original documentary function. Without reference to their origins their role as ‘evidence’ becomes more fluid, the images intrigue but are rendered mysterious, and at times absurd. Through selection and sequencing Sultan and Mandel create new narratives and ask the viewer to draw their own conclusions, playing an active role in the creation of meaning. The artists described this process as a ’poetic exploration upon the restructuring of imagery’.
Sultan and Mandel’s revolutionary approach questions the value of the photograph as document and highlights the role of context in forming meaning. Evidence is now seen as an iconic work which influenced and helped popularise the use of found photography in contemporary artistic practice.
Curated by Shoair Mavlian.