Destroy the Picture @ Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
In The Age of the World Picture, Martin Heidegger addresses the topic of reflection. He uses the existence of a photograph of the entire planet taken from the Apollo 13 spacecraft as a widely disseminated image available to all the people of the world to begin an analysis of the conditions of modernity. The image was produced shortly after the time the work in Destroy the Picture was being made. Its existence offers a salient specter for both Heidegger’s philosophical project in apprehending the ontology of technology and its proliferation in the 20th century, and the curators’ project in attempting to reveal the reconciliation of world-selfhood with the terrible possibility of mechanistic destruction.
“Reflection is the courage to make the truth of our own presuppositions and the realm of our own goals into the things that most deserve to be called in question.”
In approaching the term this way, Heidegger allows ‘reflection’ its broadest ontology, implicating in it the very understanding we have of the world and our intentionality as we operate within it. The approach to ‘reflection’ in the curation of Destroy the Picture begins to afford its historical subject matter a broadened ontology through the presence of a library of relevant texts and the selected art works. But this is counteracted by the delimiting presence of curatorial mediation. In framing, as they have, the cultural artifacts with editorial text, the curators create an illusory frame of determinacy which seeks to convey a sense of understanding. In doing so, they betray a lack of sensitivity to the possibility for the agency of the objects and texts themselves.
Curation is, like any institutional occupation, responsible for its own perpetuation. As such, it must respond to the pressure to progress as a relevant discipline. Beyond the existing enframing presences of museum architecture and the institutional agency in procurement of original art works, curation asserts itself further still into the register of the art works with heavy editorial mediation. If this approach takes place under the guise of ‘education,’ it is a prescriptive form of education which assumes an incapability on the part of both artist and viewer to project and discover meaning and complete the circuit. In making this presupposition, the curator does a better job of revealing the position of security and privilege he occupies than of the stated task of reflection and revelation.