Carnegie Museum of Art program will be a living laboratory for photography
Pittsburgh, PA…Lynn Zelevansky, The Henry J. Heinz II Director of Carnegie Museum of Art, announced today the launch of the Hillman Photography Initiative, which aims to be a living laboratory for exploring the rapidly changing field of photography and its impact on the world. According to Zelevansky, “The Initiative positions the museum to be a leader in a subject area with broad appeal and profound relevance to contemporary society. We are deeply grateful for the William T. Hillman Foundation’s support and partnership in this effort.” Martin McGuinn, chairman of Carnegie Museum of Art’s board, added, “The Initiative’s focus on art and technological innovation makes it a great fit not only for Carnegie Museums but for the entire region. We expect it to become a national model.”
For much of its history, photography has pervaded our world, but never more so than today, when non-stop technological innovations make it ever easier to take photographs and share them instantaneously. There are over eight billion pictures on the social media site Flickr; photographs on the Internet appear for seconds and then disappear, lost in a pictorial “newsfeed.” How does that affect their meaning? Our belief in their veracity? Our way of valuing them as keepsakes? And where in the midst of all these images and new technologies does art reside? What are the intellectual and aesthetic criteria by which we value photographs made with new means (for example, cell phones, computational photography) today? And how will we value those made by other means tomorrow?
Supported by funding from the William T. Hillman Foundation, the Hillman Photography Initiative is a special project within the photography department of Carnegie Museum of Art that will offer an adaptable framework for engaging with these provocative issues. Favoring an approach that is experimental and open to new perspectives, the Initiative will be driven by the collaboration of five “agents,” consisting of four external experts and Carnegie Museum of Art curator Tina Kukielski, who is also co-curator of the 2013 Carnegie International. The Initiative will follow a 12-month cycle, beginning with an intense three-month planning period during which the agents will work together with program manager Divya Rao Heffley to identify a key theme that will inspire a wide range of activities such as exhibitions, programs, collaborations, publications, commissioned works of art, artist residencies, and online experiences. Nathan Martin of the innovation/design studio Deeplocal will facilitate the process. Following the planning phase, Kukielski and Heffley will work with other museum staff to manage the implementation of the activities over the nine months that follow. Rollout of activities is expected in early 2014, although some may begin more quickly. Additionally, the Initiative will co-sponsor and/or collaborate on related projects at the museum and with other institutions.
The public will be able to track progress at initiative.cmoa.org.
The first group of agents includes, along with Tina Kukielski, Marvin Heiferman, independent curator and writer; Alex Klein, program curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; Illah Nourbakhsh, professor of robotics and director of the CREATE Lab, Carnegie Mellon University; and Arthur Ou, assistant professor of photography and director, BFA photography, Parsons The New School for Design. The group will meet for the first time on April 21–22 to begin the development cycle.
At the close of each 12-month cycle, two external agents will remain, while the other two positions will be filled with new contributors, allowing for both continuity and the infusion of new perspectives.
The structure for the Initiative grew out of a robust planning process. Approximately two years ago, the Foundation approached the museum with the idea of doing something distinctive in photography—an area of particular interest to William T. Hillman, an artist, collector, and longtime supporter of the museum. Rather than trying to replicate what others were already doing well, a team from the museum conducted in-depth research and benchmarking to explore the field and determine how the Initiative could add value and become a widely known center for innovation and excellence. Deeplocal’s Nathan Martin was engaged to assist with process design. To maintain maximum flexibility, the museum does not currently envision a bricks-and-mortar manifestation of the Initiative.
While the Initiative’s focus is primarily on the future, it is also deeply connected with the museum’s efforts to collect, conserve, and exhibit the entire breadth of the history of the medium. In 1904, Alfred Stieglitz was invited to organize an exhibition at the museum, establishing the museum as one of the first in the country to recognize photography as an art. More recent exhibitions include Digital to Daguerreotype: Photographs of People (June 20, 2009–January 31, 2010), which showed how photographers from the last 160 years explored the human subject through a wide range of artistic practices; Impressionism in a New Light: From Monet to Stieglitz (May 12–August 26, 2012), an exploration of the complex relationship between Impressionism and the Pictorialist movement in photography; and Yours Truly: Privately Collected Photographs (December 14, 2012–March 10, 2013), with vintage prints by some of the most outstanding photographers of the 20th century, including Brassaï, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Robert Frank, Weegee, and Garry Winogrand. Forty-six works from Yours Truly were announced as promised gifts to the museum from the collection of William T. Hillman, joining seven other works promised earlier in 2012.
Carnegie Museum of Art’s collection includes the Teenie Harris Archive of nearly 80,000 images, one of the most detailed and intimate records of the urban black experience known today. The museum’s groundbreaking 2011 exhibition Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story (October 29, 2011–April 7, 2012) was hailed as a “remarkable accomplishment” by the Wall Street Journal and praised by numerous other outlets regionally and nationally.
With the rapidly evolving field of photography as its focus, the Hillman Photography Initiative will explore the intersections among artistic practices and technological research. It will further these explorations by supporting the development of projects that break down barriers to participation and encourage both insiders and the general public—onsite and online—to see the museum and photography in a new light.
About the Agents
Marvin Heiferman is an independent curator and writer who has focused on the influence of photographic images on culture and history in projects such as WHY WE LOOK on Twitter (@WhyWeLook 2012–present), Photography Changes Everything as part of the Smithsonian Photography Initiative, (2008–2012), Fame after Photography at the Museum of Modern Art (1999), Image World: Art and Media Culture at the Whitney Museum of American Art (1989), and The Family of Man 1955–1984 at P.S. 1 (1984). Heiferman has authored or edited over two dozen books about art, photography, visual culture, and cultural history. He is a contributing editor to Art in America and his articles have appeared in publications such as Artforum, Bookforum, Mousse, ArtNews, Aperture, and BOMB. He serves on the faculty of both the International Center of Photography/Bard College and the School of Visual Art’s MFA programs in photography.
Alex Klein is an artist, writer, and curator working between Los Angeles and Philadelphia, where she is the Dorothy and Stephen R. Weber Program Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania. At ICA she has co-curated the exhibition First among Equals, and launched the exhibition, publication, and programming initiative Excursus with artists-in-residence Reference Library, East of Borneo, Ooga Booga, and Primary Information. She previously held positions in the Wallis Annenberg Photography Department at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Roski School of Fine Arts at the University of Southern California, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Alex is the co-founder of the editorial project and publishing imprint Oslo Editions, and is the editor of the critical volume on photography Words without Pictures (2010). Her work has been exhibited in Los Angeles, New York, and Berlin, and her writing has appeared in Dot Dot Dot, Foam, How Soon is Now? (2012) and The Human Snapshot (2013). She received her MFA from UCLA and her MA in the history of art from the Courtauld Institute of Art, London.
Tina Kukielski is co-curator, with Daniel Baumann and Dan Byers, of the 2013 Carnegie International, in addition to serving as curator of the Hillman Photography Initiative. She recently curated the exhibition Cory Arcangel: Masters (November 3, 2012–January 27, 2013), a focused survey of the artist’s works since 2002. She was formerly senior curatorial assistant at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York where she co-organized the museum’s contemporary project series from 2007–2010 with artists such as Sadie Benning, Corin Hewitt, Omer Fast, Taryn Simon, and Sara VanDerBeek. While at the Whitney, she also curated a number of group exhibitions of photography including A Few Frames: Photography and the Contact Sheet (2009), Resistance Is… (2007), and The New City: Sub/urbia in Recent Photography (2005). Her publications include essays in exhibition catalogues for William Eggleston: Democratic Camera, Photography and Video, 1958–2008 (2008), Taryn Simon: An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar (2008), and Gordon Matta-Clark: You Are the Measure (2007), among others. She is also a recent contributor to Mousse and The Exhibitionist.
Illah R. Nourbakhsh is professor of robotics, director of the Community Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment (CREATE) lab, and head of the MS Robotics Technology Program at Carnegie Mellon University. His current research projects explore community-based robotics, including educational and social robotics and ways to use robotic technology to empower individuals and communities. He is co-principal investigator of the Global Connection Project, a joint initiative of Carnegie Mellon, NASA, the National Geographic Society, and Google Inc. that developed the gigapixel imaging technology known as GigaPan. He is leading projects to apply GigaPan technology to scientific and educational efforts and to use GigaPan to help students communicate with peers internationally. He is the author of Robot Futures (2013) and co-author of Introduction to Autonomous Mobile Robots (2011). Nourbakhsh earned his BS, MS, and PhD in computer science at Stanford University and has been a faculty member of Carnegie Mellon since 1997.
Arthur Ou is an artist and writer based in New York City. He is the director of BFA Photography and assistant professor in the School of Art, Media, and Technology at Parsons The New School for Design. He has exhibited internationally, most recently in Photography Is Magic!, part of the 2012 Daegu Photography Biennial in Daegu, Korea, curated by Charlotte Cotton. His work has also been included in exhibitions in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, London, Vancouver, Innsbruck, Berlin, Dresden, and Beijing. His work has been featured in publications including Aperture, Blind Spot, Art On Paper, North Drive Press, Art in America, and The Photograph as Contemporary Art, second edition (Thames & Hudson). He has published critical texts in Aperture, Afterall.org, Artforum.com, Bidoun, Fantom, Foam, Words without Pictures, and X-Tra. He holds an MFA from the Yale University School of Art, and a BFA from Parsons School of Design.
Support for the Hillman Photography Initiative was provided by the William T. Hillman Foundation, the William T. Hillman Fund for Photography, and the Henry L. Hillman Foundation. General operating support for Carnegie Museum of Art is provided by The Heinz Endowments and Allegheny Regional Asset District. Carnegie Museum of Art receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Carnegie Museum of Art
Located at 4400 Forbes Avenue in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art was founded by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1895. One of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, it is nationally and internationally recognized for its distinguished collection of American and European painting, sculpture, and decorative arts from the 19th century to the present. Founded in 1896, the Carnegie International is one of the oldest surveys of contemporary art worldwide. The Heinz Architectural Center, part of Carnegie Museum of Art, is dedicated to enhancing understand of the built environment through its exhibitions, collections, and public programs. The Hillman Photography Initiative serves as a living laboratory for exploring the rapidly changing field of photography. For more information about Carnegie Museum of Art, call 412.622.3131 or visit our website at www.cmoa.org.