I continue: “In a time where the promise of self-expression has been fundamentally realized only to be as quickly commodified, where our righteous images are easily ripped from their origins so that one person’s proof can become someone else’s opposing 'truth,' curatorial projects supported by cultural institutions that ground our images and our acts of reception in carefully constructed contexts might be some of the best possible 'good' holding environments, places that might enable us to remake ourselves as the informed, receptive, interactive, embodied citizens most worthy of making use of the history and current conditions of the social justice images in our midst.”
As access has exponentially grown to visualization and distribution technologies, what changes is not the urgency to capture the world with evidentiary, critical or even forbidden images. Rather, today’s social justice images connect to, but differ from, earlier iterations from these struggles in two key ways: they are known primarily through their scale and speed—a veritable cascade of undifferentiated images—and secondly, their changed viewing platforms that by design rip images from their initial instantiation, maker, or even cause. In our new world of making and receiving images defined by their volume and loss of context, the show’s diverse curators use the ICP to build context: an image holding environment where connection and cohesion accrue through curation albeit with some definitive difference.
I made a similar claim about New Documents, a powerful and important show that I saw at the Bronx Documentary Center (currently showing Whose Streets Our Streets). As I’ve been arguing for 26 posts, fake news depends upon and reflects the core logic of the internet: its definitive context-loss, volume, corporate and government ownership and framing, and delight in the decay of clarity of the fake/true divide. Places with other logics can and must hold, move, and ground our images if they are to have the “truth” value that is most needed for an informed democracy.
This room, in its place, the Bronx, NYC, with more surrounding wall text, and the volunteer who believes in the Bronx, and photography, and the power of its people, is one such radical place (a good holding environment) for the watching, thinking about, and making use of witness images. This place is a context from which these images accrue deeper meaning and greater value, written as they are, not into a callous, corporate internet, or a ready-steady flow of social media, but rather, a well-thought-out history, analysis, community and purpose, a place where small screen evidence by ordinary people can meet more ordinary people who care enough to get there, learn more, and engage.