This dissertation examines two distinct but related sources used in the writing of history about the present and recent past: documentary photographs and artist interviews. Contemporary art history relies heavily on both tools as offering historical evidence. The two also share some attributes as sources: they are simultaneously of the moment and out of time, fragmentary while also appearing to be encompassing, definitive in their possibility of making meaning despite being highly mediated. While photographs and interviews act within a constellation of evidence, I argue that there is something particular about their use in contemporary art history. My goal is to interrogate what might be lost and gained in using photographs and interviews as historical evidence, and therefore what looking at or reading these tools responsibly might entail. To do so, I begin with introducing words and pictures in the contemporary most broadly, before providing literature reviews related to both interviews and photographs more specifically. I then examine these tools through the framework of what I call “networked witnessing,” proposing how we could and should use photographs and interviews within contemporary art history. With this framework established, I turn to my case studies—first performance photographs, then artist interviews—in order to offer examples of carrying out my recommendations. While my case studies explore the variety of conclusions one might productively draw from understanding historical evidence through networked witnessing, I ultimately reveal the ways in which photographs and interviews require a type of inter-viewing—of looking again, from various perspectives, through many layers of mediation, for what might be unfamiliar—that can change our perceptions of our own scholarly responsibility.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2016. Major: Art History. Advisor: Jane Blocker. 1 computer file (PDF); v, 219 pages.
All We Have: Performance Photographs and Artist Interviews in the Contemporary.
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