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Talking Pictures: Camera-Phone Conversations Between Artists

Talking Pictures

Exhibition Dates: June 27, 2017–December 17, 2018 
Exhibition Location:   The Met Fifth Avenue, Joyce and Robert Menschel Hall
for Modern Photography, Gallery 851

Over the past decade, mobile-phone cameras have changed how photographs are made, used, and looked at. While the camera once functioned chiefly as a tool for preserving the past, today people use mobile phones to share their visual experience in real time and with unprecedented intimacy. Opening June 27 at The Met, Talking Pictures: Camera-Phone Conversations Between Artists explores what happens when artists are partnered with other artists and the pairs engage in a visual dialogue using only their phones.

The exhibition is made possible by Adobe.

The Met commissioned 12 artists to participate in the project. Each was asked to invite another artist to be his or her conversation partner for a five-month period. From November 2016 to April 2017, the participants sent still images and brief videos back and forth in a game of pictorial ping-pong. They were asked not to write messages or captions and to refrain from sharing their images on social media. Otherwise, the content and frequency of communication was determined by the artists themselves.

Each pair approached the challenge differently. Some exchanged multiple images daily, producing free-wheeling chronicles of their lives. Others conversed more methodically, following a strict pattern of call-and-response. Most responded in some way to last year’s U.S. Presidential election and its aftermath, which coincided with the image-exchange period.

Highlights of Talking Pictures include a conversation between Manjari Sharma and Irina Rozovsky, who discovered they were both pregnant and due in April—their conversation ended with images of their newborns; a comical back-and-forth of videos between William Wegman and Tony Oursler; an exchange of photographs of paintings created especially for this project by Cynthia Daignault and Daniel Heidkamp; and a witty dialogue about feminism and political resistance between Nicole Eisenman and A. L. Steiner.

The other participating artists in Talking Pictures are Sanford Biggers and Shawn Peters; Cao Fei and Wu Zhang; Teju Cole and Laura Poitras; Njideka Akunyili Crosby and Nontsikelelo Mutiti; Nina Katchadourian and Lenka Clayton; Christoph Niemann and Nicholas Blechman; Ahmet Ögüt and Alexandra Pirici; and Rob Pruitt and Jonathan Horowitz.

The artists’ unabridged conversations are presented in various formats; there are four video monitors, one video projection, three touchscreens, two sets of exhibition prints, and four photo books that visitors can page through. In each case, a display was chosen to complement the specific character of the conversation.

Talking Pictures addresses the shifting landscape of mobile-phone photography as a means of connection and communication. The exhibition was conceived as an experiment and springboard for further discussion: what are the possibilities and pitfalls of presenting mobile-phone photography—a medium that is fluid, instantaneous, and ephemeral—in the physical space of a museum? If photography is changing, how do we change with it?

Talking Pictures: Camera-Phone Conversations between Artists is organized by Mia Fineman, Associate Curator in the Department of Photographs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

As part of MetFridays, William Wegman and Tony Oursler will reflect on their experience participating in the Talking Pictures process for a special “Artists on Artworks” program on Friday, December 8, 7:00-8:00 pm in the exhibition gallery. Space is limited.

The exhibition will be featured on the Museum's website, as well as on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter using the hashtag #MetTalkingPictures.

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June 7, 2017


Image: Manjari Sharma (Indian, born 1979). Image from Dialogue with Irina Rozovsky, posted January 25, 2017. Digital photograph. Bottom: Irina Rozovsky (American, born Russia, 1981). Image from Dialogue with Manjari Sharma, posted January 25, 2017. Digital photograph

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