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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Website of the Week - 20x200

20x200 wants to make art available for everyone. Every week, the website introduces two new pieces of art: one photograph and one work on paper. Every piece is available in three sizes; the smallest size with a run of 200 costs only $20, and the largest size with a run of only 2 (for you big spenders) costs $2000. Even if you can't afford the $20 art (but c'mon, can't you?), the website is a great place to see what artists are up to right now, and with bios and links to individual artist websites, you can spend hours on a virtual gallery tour. If you do have money in the budget to support emerging artists, 20x200 is a fantastic place to start your collection.

James Rajotte, whose photograph "Dog Fight, 2002" (pictured here) appeared in our Grotesque issue, has this photo for sale on the 20x200 site.

The prints often sell out quickly, so be there on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 2 pm EST when the new pieces are revealed.


Anonymous said...

yawn... shock art... crap

animals killing or being killed seems to be the trendy theme for mediocre artists hoping to archive recognition (or notoriety)

how disappointing, his other work is very good.

Adam Thorman said...

Relying on subject matter to judge art makes for a pretty shallow judgement. Rather than assuming that a photograph of animals attacking each other was made to achieve recognition, why not step past the subject matter and notice the monochromatic gray/brown wash, the easy looseness of the composition, the quiet image of a violent act, and that unexpected shock of red that produces equal amounts of horror and awe. There are bad pictures of every kind of subject. Failing to recognize a good one solely because it comes in a genre you dislike is an inadequacy you have to live with.

Yasmine said...

To Adam Thorman

I think the previous commentator is alluding to the fact that some pseudo artists stage or set up animals to get hurt and killed just to achieve a shocking photo that generates publicity.

Ever see the work of Nathalia Edenmont?

The question is, is it ethical to hurt and kill animals for the sake of art?

Anonymous said...

It's absurd to suggest that one should "step past the subject matter" of a work in order to appreciate its "artistic" qualities when the subject matter is an act of abject cruelty and barbarism. Dog fighting is illegal in all 50 states. It is a felony in most. Because dogfights are illegal and therefore not widely publicized, spectators do not merely happen upon a fight; they seek it out. They are willing participants who support a criminal activity through their paid admission and attendance. Would Mr. Thorman have the same reaction were this a photograph of a human infant being beaten to death by a couple of juvenile delinquents with baseball bats? Would he appreciate the "quiet image of a violent act," the "unexpected shock of red that produces equal amounts of horror and awe?" I think not. He would only experience the horror (unless of course he is a sociopath). No. The only reason Mr. Thorman and so many like him fail to condemn "art" like this is because the subjects are "just animals." That's what's referred to as speciesism, and it is as vicious and dangerous as racism, sexism, ageism, or homophobia.

G.H. Allison

Adam Thorman said...

"Just animals?" I apologize if you got that impression from my comments. The initial comment was addressing the questions of good and bad art and trendy subject matter, not whether the image's subject matter itself was troubling. Did I choose to present an image like this because I wanted to glorify a violent act? No. I think it's an incredibly sad, horrifying image. When viewing an image like this from a professional photographer, my first assumption is that it was shot on assignment or as part of a project. Do I think that Mr. Rajotte is glorifying the inhumane barbarism of dog fighting? Quite the opposite. With a violent image like this where the viewer can't help but react to it, presenting the inhumane act is meant to incite the viewer to want to do something about it. I think his craft is such that the image is more than just an illustration of violence and moves into metaphor. The attractive qualities I find in the image formally make the image that much more disturbing and raise further questions. If anyone viewing the image looks on it as a glorification of violence I apologize for the misunderstanding. This image was chosen to represent the grotesque, not something attractive. Do I think the image is problematic? Sure. That's why I chose it.

There's a whole slew of issues in photography surrounding the question of whether it's right to photograph a violent act. On one hand, the idea is that you can show the world what's happening to help elicit change. On the other hand, it can be considered inhumane to turn your camera on suffering, sometimes causing others to perform their acts specifically for your camera. Personally, I find myself unable to pick up a camera to document another's pain, but can I claim that others' images don't do the world some good? No.

james rajotte said...

I took this picture while I was working on a story about dog fighting that was occurring locally for a publication. The story, which started out as a story about s boxer, never ran anywhere.

It was not part of an "art" project, nor was it made as advocacy for anything. I was simply showing what something looked like - which is all a photograph do (and it can't always be trusted to do that). How can I be against dog fighting if I don't even know what happens at a dog fight? Like it or not a dog fight is probably going on right at this moment, and that is pretty much what it looks like.

I think that violent images are important in forming a visual literacy. They help our brains visualize what's wrong by way of association. These were not Michael Vick's dog's, but when I think about him, I think about what he did, and that images enters my mind. Similarly, (I don't put myself in the same league as these photographers, but..) when we think about the Vietnam War, the images of Adams, Ut, and Burroughs remind us of the atrocities that occurred.

I was 21 years old when I took this picture and I don't think that taking pictures of this event helped anyone directly, but it would have occurred if I was not there and I could not stop it.

Anonymous said...

I feel art is a “creative” process, resulting in a “creation” Very different from Journalistic photography or “Visual Literacy” which is not in my opinion “art” The resulting “creation” in this case is a dead or injured animal, the photograph is merely a record… Not art!

I’m not denying that Photography is an art form; that skill is required in the development of a photograph, knowledge of composition, of light, etc. But in the above case, the speed of the activity and it’s illegal nature do not leave much room for planning an “artistic creation” although Mr. Rajotte playing with the colors tells me he was attempting to make this into “art” not just a record of a brutal and illegal sport.

Child sexual abuse, like it or not, is probably going on right at this moment. Would Mr. Rajotte take a picture so that everyone can "pretty much see what it looks like"? Would Adam Thorman wax-poetic about the “looseness of the composition, the quiet image of a violent act, and that unexpected shock of red” in the photograph of a child’s ravaged body? Or is it that child sexual abuse matters, but the killing and brutality of dog fighting not? Both are illegal. Both victims feel pain.

After the Habacuc incident in Nicaragua, that vile Edenmont in Sweden and Adel Abdessemed’s flop in San Francisco, I think it’s pretty clear that people are fed up with the excuse “for the sake of art” and would like to see some ethics applied. Where are the boundaries between photographically recording an illegal activity and the pimping of graphic crime images as art?

Unlike Art, journalistic photography has it’s own set of ethics and kudos to those few journalists that put down the camera to intervene!

In conclusion, I disagree with Adam Thorman. Subject matter can matter! The above photograph as art appeals to me about as much as the photograph of a child being sexually abused… which is to say… IT DOESN’T!

Camera obscura in MN.

james rajotte said...

I did not "play with the colors" at all. It is directly flashed at a slow sync-speed.

Anonymous said...

Horrifying, disgusting, revolting... I am unable to find anything redeeming about a 'piece of art' when it involves the torture of animals. Period. I find it unfathomable that there are others out there that can.

Deeply disturbing...


Adam Thorman said...

This is probably going to be my last comment as there's not much more for me to say in clarification after this, and I believe that we have reached a fundamental difference in opinion about what art is. I don't agree that a photograph of a dead animal cannot be art. Drawing lines in the sand denoting which subject matter can be art and which cannot is something I find to be incredibly narrow-minded. There's always going to be someone out there who can disprove your absolute with a creative reimagining of that subject. One of the most famous pieces of art in the 20th century is a urinal signed with a fake name.

Having never addressed the Edenmont question, I will now. I have a huge problem with work like hers. Violence performed for the camera or by the artist is never okay. I just read in Artforum about a piece in a group show in Italy on the subject of the environment in which someone had two cars running during the entirety of the show and pumping the exhaust into the atmosphere to make a point about pollution. I don't think that adding to the problem is ever the correct solution. I think there's a huge difference between Edenmont's work and Rajotte's, which was not created or caused by him. Unfortunately, dog fights happen, and the only way something might be done about them is if the fact that they're happening and the brutality of the act is made public. If I had seen or heard anything to make me think that Rajotte's picture was a playful picture of his hobby or taken to glorify the act, I never would have used the image.

I have seen images of torture, death, dying children, abject sorrow, and more. Do I think that everyone who publishes or exhibits one of these images is a sociopath? Of course not. As easy as it is to fault a photographer for taking an image of atrocities without stopping them, publicly bearing witness can be a form of doing something as images have been used time and again to jumpstart interest in a cause. Maybe until now Rajotte's photograph has just sat around not helping anything, but now it has caused this discussion in a public venue, which might make some of these issues matter for a few new people.

The comment about "looking past the subject matter" was only addressing the first person's penchant to write off an image as "shock art" and "crap" solely because it was a type of picture that is often just "shock art" and "crap". This is the same issue I talk about in the first paragraph here. It was a comment about narrow-mindedness, not that subject matter doesn't matter. I agree that out of context it sounds like I am saying that the fact that it is of a deplorable act isn't important, but that is not the case, as I discussed in my previous comment.

On the subject of appreciating the formal qualities in a disturbing image, I think that there are good photographs and bad ones. I was simply pointing to the formal qualities that I feel make the image better than another one of a similar subject. I have done the same thing about photographs of other problematic imagery like Nick Ut's napalm girl, Joel Peter Witkin's work in general, W. Eugene Smith's image of Tomoko Uemura in her bath in Minamata, Todd Hido's recent portraits of naked girls in empty rooms, and the Abu Ghraib images. Sometimes the punctum is something troubling in an image, like the raw meat of an arm in an image otherwise without blood. Often times the thing that makes the image effective is also incredibly disturbing. As someone who makes a living in the photographic world, it is important for me to address every kind of image that is out there and not to ignore certain types just because I don't happen to like them.

Comparing dogs fighting to a child getting raped isn't quite fair. While rape is a form of violence, I find sexual abuse to be more serious than normal violence. This is my own opinion that comes from having seen the effects of early sexual abuse on friends as they get older. It causes scars that seem to never heal. (After the Michael Vick case, we are all now aware that rape is a part of dog breeding for dog fights, but this is not a picture of a rape.)

The question of whether James Rajotte's picture is art or document doesn't interest me very much. I think it's a good photograph of a troubling subject. I usually don't find it helpful to separate types of photographs into ghettos of specialization. The same pictures are often shown in newspapers, galleries, and museums. Too often photojournalism is used as an excuse for bad photography.

Subject matter matters. Of course it does. Anyone who tries to separate form and content will have a very difficult time of doing it. Form is the shape of content. Content is what the form is. You can't have one without the other.

Anonymous said...

Is the importance of this photo is to "shock" the viewer with the skill and craftsmanship used to make it? Or is it to "shock" the viewer with the theme? I think it is the second. Shocking people always creates discussion and publicity. Why did artist want that? He said to show what dog fighting looked like, not a "art" project. But this is a "art" blog yes?
Natalia Edenmont is a insane schlampe without skill but also wants publicity.