Saturday, October 31, 2015

Unidentified Photo Object

Nothing spooky to report today, other than this Halloween emoji. Even that is a castoff from the emoji I couldn't get to work in Twitter.

Anyway, enough about my digital incompetence. I have had two rather underwhelming gallery visits recently, not for the subject matter but for the presentation. Galleries in Shoreditch seem to think that presenting photographs without captions or with minimalist captions is somehow doing the art a favour. I disagree.

Last week I saw the Syd Shelton: Rock Against Racism exhibit at Autograph ABP, touring the cool, white space at Rivington Place in quick time, partly because the accompanying information was so utterly inadequate. Photo after photo was captioned with a location and a date, but no information on the subject. Who were those young people slouching against a wall in Hackney? Those two girls at a rally? No idea. In some cases the identifing info could be quite important, as Shelton shot both anti-racist and far right participants. One should not get confused as to who was who!

Moreover, what information was given in the captions was annoyingly shabby. "Jimmy Percy" was some kind of singer, apparently, who performed at the famous RAR gig at Victoria Park in 1978. It wouldn't take more than a quick web search to work out this character was actually Jimmy Pursey. Similarly, "Dennis Bovel" is actually Dennis Bovell, not only a musician but also producer of some renown. I met him some years back at a Slits gig and told him how great the production is on The Slits' Cut. I'm sure there were other slip-ups I missed, but mis-spellings in exhibits is a bugbear of mine and spoils the viewing. If it's important enough to go in a gallery, the text should be given as much attention as the artwork.

At least there were captions in that exhibit. When I stopped by After the Fall: Berlin 1990/2000 at Red Gallery a couple of weeks ago, I found three walls of photos with no captions at all. What the heck? Who were all those people, I wondered. What were their squats called? What was their relationship to techno? as an introductory text opined. I found it a most frustrating experience and did not linger long. Context matters.