12 January 2010

Hey! Look At ME! (Part 3 or 4)

At The Guardian today is an article and accompanying slide show in which Sean O'Hagan comments on the opening in London of a new exhibition of work by Elinor Carucci. O'Hagan worries that Carucci's work is too focused on her children and that that might be exploitative. Ultimately, he concludes that the work is "responsible." Actually, I think this hand-wringing is pretty wide of the mark. The problem with Carucci's work, as I have said here regularly [1] [2] [3], is that it is so self-absorbed as to be wholly uninteresting. What O'Hagan misses is that the subject of each of Carucci's images is the photographer herself. This is true even where she herself doesn't appear in the photograph. In short, she treats her children (and parents and husband) as accessories to her own narcissism. As if to punctuate this interpretation, here is the final sentence of The Guardian review: "And, as Carucci acknowledged on Woman's Hour, the really intriguing question here is not just what the children will think of the work when they grow up, but what they will think of their mother." That is why Carucci's work is objectionable.

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Blogger Stan B. said...

Really got it in (out?) for her, don't ya, Jim? Hey, look at the bright side- at least she allows other human beings into her photos, unlike say... Cindy.

13 January, 2010 13:32  
Blogger ninthplanet said...

I can appreciate what you're saying. At the same time, people do not necessarily make pictures to express their personal virtue. Whether intended or not, narcissism may be as worthy a subject as the next one; it does not make Carucci's work objectionable in itself, in my opinion.
And the debate about them being "responsible" or not is asinine and completely missing the point. Photography may be, but should not be reduced to being, the arbiter of personal or public morality; it can serve other considerations.

I agree with you in that I find the pictures uninteresting. Their extremely aestheticised quality has "gallery" written all over them, and they are curiously numb for it. The messiness of personal relationships that Nan Goldin managed to communicate in her pictures--narcissistic or not--is completely absent in this sanitised version of family intimacy.

13 January, 2010 15:13  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Stan - Happy New Year! I hear you on Cindy. And I am not really out to get Carucci - just talking back a bit while everyone seems to be falling over themselves to hype her work. It is simply banal. I always flinch when people squander talent.

N~ I suppose it would be ironic if Carucci could self-consciously document her own narcissism! That would be a worthy undertaking and it'd display the tiniest smidge of sanity. My problem is that she is simply playing out her self-absorption. Why waste gallery space on that. She and her life and her foibles are simply boring.

13 January, 2010 20:50  
Blogger Dawei_in_Beijing said...

I'm glad to see not everyone is drinking the Kool-Aid. I agree with your assessment 100%, Jim. Her work is narcissistic, snooty, and elitist. Bad vibes all around.

Happy New Year, by the way!!!

14 January, 2010 22:03  

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