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Softcover, 103 pages, 49 duo-tone,
11 x 8"
Publication Date: April 2006
Table of contents/excerpt (PDF)
In this book, photographer and critic Martha Rosler traces the ways in which art draws its meaning from within its social and political frameworks. The book’s two artworks and a related essay exemplify and investigate the social embeddedness of art. They suggest how changing times and changing circumstances affect not only the form and meaning of photography but also its effects on its audience, including its ability to activate its viewers.
The artwork, the restoration of high culture in chile (1977) is a photo and text work that, in fictionalized form, examines the various degrees of political anaesthesia and moral corruption implied by a successful adaptation to unquestioned and abstract notions of high culture. It shows how a political crisis can reveal the way types of cultural production appeal to sharply divided audiences and does so in part by adopting a hybrid form of enunciation, between short story and political tract. The photo-and-text work The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems (1974-1975) throws into question the ability of contemporary urban photography to continue the historical potential of social documentary photography. Its accompanying work, “in, around, and afterthoughts,” written especially for the first edition of 3 works, is a fully developed critical essay in which this question is explored more systematically. In this work, Rosler attempts to develop criteria that could define contemporary photographic activities as meaningful social and aesthetic practices.
Included in the 2006 edition of 3 works is an additional critical essay that describes the conception and evolution of the original book. In “afterword: a history” Rosler also revisits issues raised by 3 works, explores debates within photographic practice from the time of the book’s original publication in 1981, and further refines her views on the history of documentary practices and the enduring significance of these forms of expression.
Pages 46–47, The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems (1974-1975)