A FASCINATING NEW exhibition opened at the Metropolitan Museum this week—something every #photoshopfail fan should see. I had the pleasure of sitting down with its curator, Mia Fineman, for a discussion on doctored photos, the subject of “Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop.” Chronologically, Ms. Fineman’s show begins with a rudimentary negative inking in 1846 and includes images of increasing complexity over the years, with some famously tricked-out photos such as Harry Shunk’s “Leap Into the Void” and “Dirigible Docked on Empire State Building.”
I was particularly intrigued with the outre spirit photography of which William H. Mumler was the undisputed master around the 1880s. Both the wacky photo trend and the parallel spiritualism movement, which originated in upstate New York and migrated to Europe, is a strange chapter in our history: talk about your willing suspension of disbelief. I mean, really!
On a more intellectual note is the surrealist work from the 1920-40s—our own smarty-pants Renaissance of sorts, with artists exploring the mind’s eye, interpreting dreams and collaging intriguing and frightening fantasies. A fair amount of imagery deals with urban angst and isolation—something to which many of us can relate, but few express so artistically. The images of Argentine photographer Grete Stern, in particular, depict every woman’s post-war nightmare (indeed, her photos accompanied a popular dream-interpretation column in a woman’s magazine), but with quite a bit of wit, as though she could predict the feminist uprising two or more decades ahead. Then there’s the stuff that’s just pure fun: a man juggling multiples of his own head, a guy trapped in a bottle, ears of corn that we, today might think were a result of GMO super-sizing. My story in the Wall Street Journal explores other themes of the show, and the online version has a fun graphic showing before and after. [PDF here]
A STORY I DIDN’T POST about previously, and which [sadly] has now departed, was about David Levine’s fine pop-up performance theater in the Essex Market last month. “Habit,” a 90-minute play, ran for 10 days at the end of September, as part of the Alliance France’s Crossing the Line festival. The continuous eight-hour loop of American drama allowed viewers access at any time, and freedom to experience it however they wished (sitting down, standing up, peering through various windows … for eight minutes or eight hours). No two performances were the same, nor could they be: The script was the only thing scripted about the show, and the actors created the drama on the spot, neither knowing what would unfold in the next minutes, nor how the curious play would end. I stopped in for a bit on my birthday and watched a scene through the living room window where the three characters pretty much tore into each other Noah Baumbach-style. Which is to say, “ouch!” It was nice to see that people had problems greater than that of aging another year. Online here at WSJ and PDF here.