BY Kito Nedo in Reviews | 27 APR 11
Featured in
Issue 1

Shahin Afrassiabi & Miroslav Tichý

Soy Capitán, Berlin, Germany

BY Kito Nedo in Reviews | 27 APR 11

Shahin Afrassiabi, Pavement, 2010

The exhibition SEAM a didactic model was laid out as an intimate juxtaposition of two artists in one room: On the right-hand wall hung four undated photographs taken by Miroslav Tichý between the 1960s and the 1990s; on the left, five photographs by Shahin Afrassiabi from 2010. At first glance, the show appeared to showcase a single type of image: skewed and blurry pictures of women on the streets, as if photographed from the hip in passing, mostly from behind. In one of Tichýs pictures, only the womans legs and the bottom of her skirt are visible; the black and white print has browned and is blotchy (Untitled, undated). Afrassiabis Pavement (2010) feels just as fleeting and flawed: Due to an optical illusion or faulty processing, two figures appear conjoined. But do the photographers really operate on the same level?

Since the discovery of his oeuvre by the market and by museums some years ago, the Czech photographer of women Tichý (born 1926) has been considered the outsider artist par excellence, a living legend whose exotic story has been lapped up by the media. Over a period of decades, working in solitude with the help of home-made cameras, he captured his voyeuristic longings in thousands upon thousands of washed out, ephemeral prints. As a result, the artists authentic existence is an inseparable and significant part of the photographs.

Afrassiabis pictures of women draw on a very different source. Having found his motifs in the image material provided by Googles Street View service, he uses low-quality digital cameras to photograph the computer screen and then enlarges these images. The results may look similar to Tichýs, but this is not the work of a loner. On the contrary, appropriating Street View images is already emerging as a photographic trend, even though the service only went public in the USA in mid-2007. Since then, it has gradually expanded to cover other countries including Germany, where it met with resistance.

With the launch of Street View, Google breathed new life into the existing discourses on photography, shifting the emphasis on issues such as surveillance images, street photography and the decisive moment.

A type of picture that used to circulate exclusively in closed circles has become a public matter; Street View has created a steadily growing carpet of images of urban life which almost seems to invite artistic appropriation. It remains to be seen whether or not such endeavours will actually lead to the emergence of new approaches to photography and possibly even contribute to an understanding of this special form of virtuality (an endlessly navigable 360-degree panoramic snapshot). The exhibition reflects this lack of clarity and definition: The way Afrassiabis Street View appropriation art is contrasted with Tichýs voyeuristic images bear out Marshall McLuhans old theory that the content of a medium can always be defined in terms of another medium, in this case an older one.
Translated by Nicholas Grindell

Kito Nedo lives in Berlin where he works as contributing editor for frieze and as freelance journalist for several magazines and newspapers. In 2017, he won the ADKV-Art Cologne Award for Art Criticism.