Sex, celebrity, violence, and surveillance have been intertwined with photography since the medium’s rise in the 19th century. Those themes permeate Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance, and the Camera since 1870, running May 21 to September 18, 2011 at the Walker Art Center. Through photographs of private, candid, spontaneous, and secret moments, the exhibition explores the powerful and invasive role of the voyeur, provoking an array of uneasy questions about the relationship between photographer and subject.
With some 150 photographs and moving image works, Exposed is divided into five thematic sections—the unseen photographer, voyeurism and desire, celebrity and the public gaze, witnessing violence, and surveillance. The exhibition reveals myriad ways that photography has brought to light the forbidden and the taboo. It includes pictures made on the sly, without the consent of the people depicted, as well as images both celebrated and notorious: Brassaï’s erotic nighttime images of Parisian couples; Weegee’s iconic photograph of Marilyn Monroe; Nick Ut’s documentary image of children escaping napalm attacks during the Vietnam War. Pictures made by amateurs, professional photographers, and governmental agencies are presented alongside work by renowned figures like Guy Bourdin, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Philip Lorca DiCorcia, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Dorothea Lange, Helen Levitt, Helmut Newton, and Man Ray. Exposed also showcases examples of film, video, and installation work by artists such as Thomas Demand, Bruce Nauman, and Andy Warhol.
The exhibition also features a special installation of Nan Goldin’s groundbreaking work The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1986), presented in its original 35mm slide show format in the Walker’s Medtronic Gallery. Through touching and often dark photographs Goldin has taken from 1983 to the present, The Ballad documents the lives of the artist’s friends and lovers—an extended group she refers to as her “tribe.” Universal yet subjective, the work is Goldin’s intimate reflection on personal relationships, sexuality, pain, and friendship.
Exposed has a particular resonance today, in an era marked by voyeurism, ubiquitous surveillance via security cameras and mobile phones, and instantaneous dissemination of images on the internet. Alternately shocking, illuminating, disturbing, and witty, Exposed provides an historical perspective on the tensions among the camera, art, and society.
A complete listing of related programs follows.
Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance, and the Camera is organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and the Tate Modern. It was conceived by Sandra S. Phillips, Senior Curator, Photography, SFMOMA, and co-curated with Simon Baker, Curator of Photography, Tate, and Ann Coxon, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern. The exhibition debuted at the Tate Modern in the summer of 2009 and traveled to SFMOMA in the autumn of 2010.
A 256-page exhibition catalogue, published by SFMOMA in conjunction with Yale University Press and edited by Sandra S. Phillips, features essays by Phillips, Simon Baker, Philip Brookman, Carol Squiers, Marta Gili, and Richard B. Woodward. The book will be available for purchase at the Walker Shop $50 ($45 Walker members).
Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance, and the Camera is organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Tate Modern. Major support for the exhibition is provided by the Trellis Fund and the Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation.
The Walker Art Center’s presentation is made possible by major support from Martha and Bruce Atwater and Elizabeth Redleaf. Additional support is generously provided by Miriam and Erwin Kelen. Media partner Mpls.St.Paul Magazine.
Walker Art Center Premier Partners