Image Storage Containers
Centre National de l’Audiovisuel
6 May - 1 October 2023
Ostensibly as documentarian as his work on The Family of Man, Image Storage Containers (2012) does something closely related in intention to the latter and yet very different. On one level, it can be described as condensing, as Marie Muracciole has noted, two moments in the myth of photography as a “universal language”: the first involving The Family of Man as imperial project; the second, photography’s sheer technicity as a mechanical means of reproduction, with all its attendant connotations ofobjectivity and scientificity. Atop this interfolding of meanings one can discern two additional layers: the Image Storage Container as a kind of “thought experiment,” an auto-pedagogical exercise to schematize the human nervous system, and, a more polemical read, as a proposition about the present conditions for viewing photographs within today’s networked image regime—at a moment when computer technologies, themselves predicated upon neuroscience findings on human perception and cognition, have precipitated a mass transformation of psycho-social behavior.
In a series of photographs from 2011, artist Jeff Weber documented the restoration work undertaken on a large photograph of the 1952 hydrogen bomb test (“Ivy Mike”) included in The Family of Man exhibition, part of a general restoration carried out by Studio Berselli of Milan between 2011 and 2013 under the auspices of the Centre national de l’audiovisuel (CNA), where it has been on permanent display since 1994. Outside of the delicious paradox presented by documenting a restoration process conducted on an image depicting destruction on a monumental scale, Weber, an artist notable for identifying representational shifts and an interest in blurring what can properly be considered inside or outside a work of art, has described his motivation as a move to contextualize The Family of Man within the era of its creation—the Cold War and nuclear arms race. So contextualized, his photographs of the restoration proces become both an antithetical representation of the exhibition and its much-vaunte humanist intentions, as well as an uncannily accurate depiction of the pervasive political atmosphere in which it traveled. This impulse to follow antagonisms (discernible in the associative and contingent details of any photograph) led to a second body of work, Image Storage Container, prompted by his noting, while documenting the conservators at work, a slatted box used to transport and store photographic prints. Taken by its peculiar form, the following year Weber produced the series using a self-made replica, documenting the play of light and shadow passing through the box’s slatted aperture and onto a white backdrop using a variety of flashes, employing a neutral clinical style reminiscent of conceptual photography’s affinity for “applied photography.”