Trace and Erasure: Forgetting Photographs
Michael Fried's Artforum article on photographer Thomas Demand titled "Without a Trace" emphasises the artist's "intentionality" as absolute locus of meaning within his images. Fried's own intention in this and other articles on contemporary photographers that are forming the basis of his forthcoming book on photography, is to introduce his idea of anti-theatricality into the discourse of photography. This argument is essentially based on the idea that the photograph itself represents the concluding moment of a "specific ontological project", privileging neither the photograph nor the process of its production. What is privileged however is the way that Demand's images "foreground the topos of intention" which Fried sees as an essential element of his concept of "anti-theatricality". Fried's use of Demand for this purpose shifts the emphasis from the most traditionally valued element of the photographic process - indexicality - to the photograph's operation in the erasure of indexical traces in the objects represented. But what Fried overlooks here is the fact that Demand, in working from existing photographs, is in fact engaged in a discourse of images and their affects rather than one of traces and their erasure. This paper contrasts Fried's reading of Demand's images with Cornelia Parker's photographic work as it could be seen as the opposite of Demand's work in that it pays absolute attention to indexically marked objects. Through the work of Demand and Parker the relationship between photography and the indexical trace is scrutinised with the intention of re-evaluating issues of photographic indexicality, materiality and medium specificity.
Alpha Alpha Alpha November Zulu