9 May - 20 September 2003
As Craigie Horsfield's work - his art and writings - have become increasingly influential (see Documenta 10 and 11), this exhibition is a rare opportunity to see a group of photographic works drawn from his large-scale social projects in Spain (1996) and Holland (1998), as well as earlier in Poland (1970s).
In these remarkable black-and-white pictures, the past and future are aspects of the way we experience and understand the present not as being instantaneous but as having duration. The profound significance of Horsfield's work lies in his claim that the artwork moved from the object to action within the space of relation. Much that is conventionally given over to politics, philosophy, and ethics is seen as being part of art, irrespective of the medium that is being considered: soundwork, film, drawing, installation, or photography, all of which he has used since the very start of his oeuvre in the late 1960s. The making of the work, be it the development, the viewing, or the affect, happens in the space between us, to which the photograph, film, or drawing contributes, and thus always unfolds in a relational present. Key notions of Horsfield's work are conversation and "slow time." In his most recent publication “El Hierro Conversation," the artist writes: "Conversation is the common and shared place of relation—relation as 'becoming together' and relation as '
'telling''." In this sense, Horsfield believes that the work of art is only realized in connectivity and collaboration. In using photography as such, his position questions the validity of modernist notions of alienation and separation in the formation of art, and anticipates much of current thinking in art practice concerning the individual and communality.
Each of the rooms in the Monica De Cardenas Gallery consists of three to five large-scale photographs, the size of which have been defined following very precise decisions. Their velvet-like surface results from a labor-intensive developing process, whereby the artist has spent many weeks to bathe and develop, with immense care, these single and unique pictures. The subtle juxtaposition of the photographs reflects Horsfield's urgent inquiry of what seems to be for him unsustainable values of disconnection versus contemporary notions of relation: the archive (categorization as separation) next to the playground (game as togetherness); the empty chair (absence) surrounded by portraits of people he encountered and relates to (presence). It is remarkable how almost as a precursor of what has become fashionable in recent photography Horsfield had made portraits the core of his work as early as the beginning of the 1970s. The setting is commonplace. The faces relate to the environs, both with their traces, carrying within their being memory and history. Although all these photographs suggest that we position ourselves as regards to here and now, they often connect us with an art historical legacy, such as the Italian Renaissance or sixteenth-century Flemish Painting.
In this exhibition, which consists predominantly of portraits, the potential of a changed attention to the other and a heightened sense of place can perhaps be realized at this timewithin the currency of thought. The intensity of experience and perception are then part of a wider project that is the social project of relation.