— Russet Lederman

In the Shadow of Ed Ruscha

Presented at:
Furthering the Critical Dialogue Panel at Contemporary Artists’ Books Conference at the New York Art Book Fair, MoMA PS1, New York City, September 17, 2016.

The panel addressed the the state of criticism in relation to artists’ books and independent publishing. Three panelists discussed and evaluated two books by Ed Ruscha: Twenty Six Gasoline Stations and Every Building on the Sunset Strip. Chaired by Tony White, participants include: Russet Lederman, Ian McDermott, and Anne Thurman-Jajes.

 

New Photography from Japan: Current Trends and Distinctions

Presented at:
Miyako Yoshinaga Gallery, New York City, April 28, 2016.

A gallery talk on the younger generation of photographers currently working in Japan. Russet Lederman, the guest curator of Close to the Edge: New Photography from Japan, moderated a discussion with guest speakers Dr. Michael Chagnon, Curator of Exhibition Interpretation at Japan Society Gallery, New York and Sawako Fukai, Co-Founder and Director of G/P Gallery and Artbeat Publishers, Tokyo.

 

Image-in-Focus

Presented at:
Japan Society, New York City, December 11, 2015.

A gallery talk with Jeff Gutterman on Japanese photobooks of the 1960s and ’70s to accompany the exhibition For a New World to Come: Experiments in Japanese Photography, 1968-1979.

 

Then and Now: Japanese Women Photographers of the 1970s and ’80s Revealed Through their Photobooks

Presented at:
Fast Forward: Women in Photography Symposium at the Tate Modern, London, November 6-7, 2015.

Ishiuchi Miyako, Ishikawa Mao, and Nishimura Tamiko – three Japanese women photographers who first came into the Japanese photography scene in the 1970s and ‘80s are examined, accounting for the varying trajectories of their increased recognition in the light of the re-edits, reprints and reinterpretations of their early and influential photobooks. Symposium Day 1 videos

 

Photobooks and Artist’s Books

Presented at:
Les Rencontre d’Arles: Cosmos-Arles Books, Arles, France, July 10, 2015.

Round table discussion with Stephanie Solinas, David Solo, Winfried Heininger, Dirk Bakker, and Russet Lederman, led by Fredérique Destribats.

 

Japanese Photobooks with Russet Lederman

Presented at:
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, May 6, 2015.

Presentation of significant postwar Japanese photobooks drawn from my private collection. Presented in conjunction with the MFA Boston exhibition, In The Wake: Japanese Photographers Respond to 3/11.

 

Issei Suda: Mark Pearson & Mihyun Kang in conversation with Russet Lederman

Presented at:
Miyako Yoshinaga Gallery, NYC, October 16, 2014.

Moderator for panel discussion in conjunction with Issei Suda: Life In Flower 1971-1977, an exhibition featuring over 30 vintage and modern gelatin silver prints by Japanese photographer Issei Suda (b.1940). Best known for his captivating street portraits exploring the mysterious and witty aspects of human life, this talk examined Suda’s role within the postwar Japanese photography scene of the 1970s.

 

The Photobook Mash-Up

Presented at:
Photo Meets Text Panel, Contemporary Artists’ Books Conference at the New York Art Book Fair, MoMA PS1, NYC, September 27, 2014.

This panel explores how text and images can be integrated to create narrative in photobooks. Long existing side by side the photograph and the word have now collided. Unravelling and investigating the relationship of photography & writing can be complex and perhaps even mind/perception altering. Russet Lederman maps out some of the history of words and images and leads a discussion into the possible futures. Brad Zellar and Nicholas Muellner present from their experiences of their own extensive ‘field work’ as investigators, researchers and writers. Organized by Matthew Carson. Hyperallergic Review of panel, Audio of panel

 

Eikoh Hosoe: The Photobook as Collaboration

Presented at:
Rupture, Reconnection: Eikoh Hosoe’s Photography, Aperture Foundation, NYC, October 9, 2013.

A presentation on the photobook career and influence of Eikoh Hosoe, widely acknowledged as a pioneer of expressionistic post–World War II Japanese photography. Hosoe, whose oeuvre spans over fifty years, has explored the human body’s physicality as a subject that reveals a shifting interior landscape of dreams and desires. Video

 

1945 and 2011: The Postwar Japanese Photobook as a Record of Trauma

Presented at:
Disaster and Creativity Panel, College Art Association Annual Conference, NYC, February 15, 2013.

This paper explores the Japanese photobook as a catalyst in heralding two distinctive photographic responses in the aftermath of the 1945 atomic bombings and the 2011 Tohoku/Fukushima disaster.

From the near-apocalyptic devastation of the 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings emerged a new generation of Japanese photographers, who in the process of healing created a distinct visual language. With the photobook as their primary creative outlet, photographers created complex narratives and mini-universes that reshaped western notions of photography and book design.

A similar conceptual restructuring is now occurring among Japanese photobooks published since the 2011 Tohoku/Fukushima disaster. Unlike the more obvious documentation of atrocities found in post-bombing images, post- Tohoku/Fukushima photobooks focus on the hidden dangers of the seemingly unchanged. Through a deceptively simple aesthetic vocabulary that presents bucolic landscapes, many contemporary Japanese photographers question prevailing governmental reassurances, and address the invisible dangers associated with a large-scale radiation leak.

 

Fanta, Sprite and G.I. Joe: Depictions of Postwar American Military in Japanese Photography

Presented at:
Radical Aesthetics and Politics: Intersections in Music, Art and Critical Social Theory Conference, Hunter College, City University of New York, New York City, December 9, 2011.

Since the end of World War II, the American military presence on Japanese soil has been a contentious, yet mandated component of Japan’s postwar political and economic landscape. Initiated and maintained through a series of treaties at the end of the war, large American military installations are concentrated on the islands of Okinawa and Honshu. Their presence is not a simple picture of occupier and occupied, but rather a controversial and complex issue in Japanese politics — one that is complicated by a love-hate relationship in which both partners are responsible for the resulting tensions. As a layered subject that offers no easy answers, a number of Japanese postwar photographers have sought to unravel their often-conflicted feelings on the American military’s role in their country. Employing very different conceptual and visual approaches, their photographs and accompanying photobooks provide highly personal observations on this controversial topic.

Within the context of the multifaceted dialogue surrounding the American military presence in Japan, this paper will present three distinctly personal aesthetic investigations by Shomei Tomatsu, Mao Ishikawa, and Miyako Ishiuchi. As the oldest, Tomatsu was a founding member of the influential Vivo group and mentor to the successive generation that includes Ishikawa and Ishiuchi. His Chewing Gum and Chocolate series (late 1950s-60s) presents the gaudy bars and lounges that surround the military bases. Fascinated by the informality of the American military personnel, his images explore their subjects from a distance as they renounce photojournalism in favor of a more expressive and intuitive approach. Mao Ishikawa, a student of Tomatsu and a dramatic and outspoken native Okinawan, embraces her subjects full force from a position of central engagement. By joining the ranks of the “Kin-Town” women, the young women who “befriended” the soldiers near the US base in Kin-Town, Okinawa, the photographs in her 1982 photobook Hot Days at Camp Hansen present a raw view from an interior perspective. A bit more subdued and reflective of a conflicted identity, Miyako Ishiuchi’s Yokosuka Story (1978-79) explores her hometown Yokosuka, a city southwest of Tokyo, which has hosted two large American naval bases since the late 1940s. Possessing a quiet power, her images of deserted military base buildings and streets act as a container for her highly personal childhood memories of place as they also hint at the wider conflicted national sentiment and the complex range of emotions associated with the American military presence in Japan.

 

“Shojo” and the Art of Resistance by Contemporary Japanese Women Photographers and Media Artists

Presented at:
Critical Themes in Media Studies Conference, The New School University, New York City, April 2010.

In this essay, I argue that the staged cos-play (costume play) inspired works of contemporary Japanese women photographers and media artists employ the trappings of kawaii (cute) and shojo (girl) culture as a feminist strategy to exploit traditional gender stereotypes and gain a measure of personal freedom in the restrictive context of Japanese culture. By combining critical theories about the primarily subversive origins of cute culture within the 1960/1970s Japanese resistance movements with examples of sex and dissent portrayed in the works of Japanese male photographers such as Yoshiyuki Kohei, Watanabe Katsumi and Araki, an historical support can be found for the highly sexualized masquerades now practiced by contemporary photographers Yanagi MIwa, Sawada Tomoko and Suzuki Ryoko, and performance artist Norico (Sunayama Noriko). It is at the intersection of an inversion of kawaii shojo culture with the above mentioned historical precedence for sex as dissent that I analyze the distinctive type of agency enacted by women media artists over the past 15 years — one that explores a liminal and hybrid-gendered space that mixes subversion and consumerism.

 

Self-Commodification: Controlling the Body

Presented at:
Critical Themes in Media Studies Conference, The New School University, New York City, April 2009.

The Body: Images, Perceptions, and Representations Conference, Western Illinois University, November 2008.

Self-Commodification: Controlling the Body investigates contemporary female media and performance artists’ purposeful embrace of their bodies as a means of self-commodification. Through the use of networked and medical means, these artists present their dissected and indexed bodies as empowered parts along with the various brand name possessions that they consume and adorn themselves with – all of it for sale within a creative and social structure that easily acknowledges the role that contemporary commodity culture plays in their lives and art making. As artists, these women have arrived at a point where they don’t just comment on the commodification of their bodies, but actively engage in a process of self-commodification – willfully controlling and promoting it for their own profit.

Starting with the dada inspired street performances of Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, this paper chronicles the artistic evolution and control of female self-representation through the manipulation of various technologies and media, i.e. print, performance, video, photography/montage, plastic surgery and fertility treatments. Much self-imaging found in contemporary art presents the body mediated, interpreted and reassembled through either a lens (camera) or screen (computer monitor, TV) — the resulting works celebrate a distracted and superficial “reality” reconstructed from personal, cultural and representational dislocations reflective of 20th century consumer practices.

 

Immateriality and Open Access: Net Art in its Natural ‘Habitat’

Presented at:
12th Biennial Symposium on Arts and Technology, Connecticut College, New London, CT, March 2010.

Critical Themes Conference, New School University, April 2008.

Since its inception in the mid 1990’s, the collective or rather “connective”, non- object oriented and interactive practices of networked media art (a.k.a. web or internet art) has never fit smoothly into the existing art world structure of materiality. Instead, its inherent immateriality pushes the boundaries and definitions of art and its material- based presentation structure. By its very nature, its creation and dissemination are antithetical to the traditional hierarchy of the art world’s closed and tightly controlled system of rewards and gatekeepers. Using a production of culture perspective as outlined by Richard Peterson in his essay “Cultural Studies Through the Production of Culture Perspective: Progress and Prospects” which posits that the culture in which the cultural objects are created, distributed, evaluated and preserved will influence their content and the creation process, this paper explores the ill fitting relationship that net art has with the prevailing object-oriented art world production environment.

Examining net art examples on museum portal sites, in gallery and museum exhibitions, as well as artist created web sites, the DIY (“do-it-yourself”) practices of net artists and their audience are evaluated and compared to the material oriented practices of the current art world rewards system. In order for net art to maintain its very essence of open access, collaboration and interactivity and not be subsumed or converted into an appropriated material likeness of its “original” self, this paper suggests that net art needs to be available and exhibited within the environment in which it was created, a network, i.e. the web – thus, making the sanctioned art world portal sites just one avenue in the continuously expanding and inter-connected rhizomatic realm of online art viewing. As a result, alternative reward structures and gatekeepers are explored and suggested.