Notes on the Index: Photograph, Trace, Subject

  • Walker Evans, Erosion, Mississippi, 1936 Silver gelatin print 25 x 20 cm, Library of Congress press photograph, Collection David Campany, Handful of Dust Whitechapel Gallery 2017

    Walker Evans, Erosion, Mississippi (1936) Silver gelatin print, Collection David Campany

Past Event

This event was on Sat 17 Jun, 2-6pm

What is the relationship between images and their subjects? Does the index remain a useful framework for contemporary photography?

To coincide with A Handful of Dust, this symposium takes Rosalind Krauss’s seminal 1977 essay as a point of departure. Bringing together artists and theorists, the event explores ideas of perception, abstraction and the passing of time, as well as signs, traces and trauma.

The exhibition’s curator David Campany is joined by writer and critic Brian Dillon and art historian and theorist Margaret Iversen, followed by a panel including artists Xavier Ribas, Rut Blees Luxemburg and Eva Stenram, moderated by Clare Grafik, Head of Exhibitions, The Photographers’ Gallery.


2.00pm  Welcome by Jane Scarth, Curator: Public Programmes, Whitechapel Gallery

Session One

2.05pm  David Campany, Curator, A Handful of Dust

2.25pm  Brian Dillon, Royal College of Art

2.45pm  Margaret Iversen, University of Essex

3.05pm  Panel discussion chaired by David Campany. Followed by Q&A.

3.45pm  Break

Session Two

4.10pm  Panel with artists Xavier Ribas, Eva Stenram and Rut Blees Luxemburg chaired by Clare Grafik, Head of Exhibitions, The Photographers’ Gallery

5.45pm  End

About the Speakers

David Campany is a writer, curator and artist. His recent books, which are also exhibitions, include The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip; The Still Point of the Turning World: between film and photography; and Walker Evans: the magazine work.  A book of photographs, Adventures in the Lea Valley, made in collaboration with Polly Braden, was published last year.

Brian Dillon was born in Dublin in 1969. His books include The Great Explosion (shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize), Objects in This Mirror: Essays, I Am Sitting in a
Room, Sanctuary, Tormented Hope: Nine Hypochondriac Lives (shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize) and In the Dark Room, which won the Irish Book Award for non- ction. His writing has appeared in the Guardian, New York Times, London Review of Books, Times Literary Supplement, Bookforum, frieze and Artforum. He is UK editor of Cabinet magazine, and teaches at the Royal College of Art, London.

Clare Grafik is Head of Exhibitions at The Photographers’ Gallery in London. She has worked on exhibitions and projects with artists and photographers including Lise Sarfati, Isa Genzken, Larry Sultan, Mike Mandel, Taryn Simon, Katy Grannan, Antoine D’Agata, Cuny Janssen, Zineb Sedira and Keith Arnatt. Group exhibitions include The Photographic Object and Double Take: Drawing and Photography. She has lectured at Birkbeck College, University of the Arts, University of South Wales, Sothebys Institute of Art, and written for magazines including IANN, Art Monthly and Contemporary.

Margaret Iversen is Professor Emerita at the University of Essex. Her books include Alois Riegl: Art History and Theory (MIT Press) and Beyond Pleasure: Freud, Lacan, Barthes (Penn State).  She edited a special issue of Art History, ‘Photography after Conceptual Art,’ and another for Critical Inquiry called ‘Agency and Automatism: Photography and Art since the Sixties,’ both with Diarmuid Costello. She also edited the Documents of Contemporary Art volume on Chance (MIT/ Whitechapel Gallery). Writing Art History (Chicago, 2010) was written in collaboration with Stephen Melville. Her latest book Photography, Trace and Trauma has just been published by University of Chicago Press.

Rut Blees Luxemburg is an artist who deals with the representation of the city and the phenomenon of the urban, ranging from large-scale photographic works to public art installations and the opera Liebeslied/My Suicides. Her recent public art work Silver Forest is a monumental photographic phantasmagoria rendered in concrete for the façade of Westminster City Hall.  Her most recent exhibition London Dust was shown at the Museum of London in 2016. She created the iconic album cover for The Streets’ Original Pirate Material and she is a reader in urban aesthetics at The Royal College of Art.

Xavier Ribas is a photographer, lecturer at the University of Brighton, and associate lecturer at the Universitat Politècnica de València. His photographic work investigates contested sites and histories, and geographies of abandonment. Ribas has been involved in many international exhibitions including the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (MNCARS) and the Stedelijk Museum.

Negatives, slides, magazines, images from the Internet and photographic prints are Eva Stenram’s source of inspiration as well as working material. By muting and mutating her material, the original functions of the photographs are disrupted and often subverted.  Stenram has participated in numerous exhibitions worldwide and has recently had solo exhibitions at Ravestijn Gallery (Amsterdam, 2016), Siobhan Davies Dance (London, 2015), and Open Eye Gallery (Liverpool, 2013), amongst others. In 2017, her work can be seen in Golden Sunset, an exhibition of recent acquisitions at Moderna Museet, Stockholm.