Friday, 18 March 2011

Aaron Schuman and Charlotte Cotton Say...

CC: We're definitely out of that phase when discussion centres around whether you're an 'artist using photography', or a 'photographer'. Doesn't that feel completely irrelevant now?

AS: At what point did you first feel that this debate had become irrelevant?

CC: Even when I was writing The Photograph as Contemporary Art, around 2004, I felt that it was over as a debate, or at least I was no longer remotely interested in having that debate. But the point at which it was really over for me was last year, when the contemporary art market imploded completely, because that terminology is only important if the locus is the contemporary art market. I don't think that contemporary art is the centre of things anymore.

AS: But to a certain extent, your book - The Photograph as Contemporary Art - was responsible for centring photography within that context for the current generation of practitioners, and still remains important to students in terms of figuring out where photography is located. Do you feel that the book is relevant anymore?

CC: Well I wrote the new chapter about a year and a half ago. In the book, I clearly sidestepped trying to validate photography as contemporary art and just said, 'It is; that war is over.' And then each chapter started with historical precedents that at the time were unexpected, like Cindy Sherman or Jim Welling. For some people, those artists constitute what photography as contemporary art is, but I was saying that they are actually historical precedents who initially got the ball rolling for all of the more recent artists, who were born around 1965-1970.

AS: But could you write a book like The Photograph as Contemporary Art now?

CC: No. I could only write it now if 'Contemporary Art' was understood as a museological term for a period in art-making that, for most museums, started around 1965 and ended around 2010.

AS: So we've come to the end of the 'Contemporary' period?

CC: Maybe. I'm certainly finding that the work that most interests me today doesn't sit within that field. I think that the very nature of the time that we're now living through has led me to change my opinion about lots of things profoundly. And to not change your opinion about something that is shifting so radically is to not be really and truly invested in it.

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