Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Richard Barnes: Exploring the Margins

I'm fascinated by photographer Richard Barnes' investigative trajectory. Just as his new monograph, Animal Logic, comes out this month and the memory of his eerily empty, yet rich and beautiful pictures of the Unabomber's cabin continue to resonate, his current body of museum based work pulls him, and us, ever forward into uncharted territory.

Animal Logic: Photography and Installation by Richard Barnes, the exhibition, opening October 3 at Cranbrook Acadamy of Art and Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, is a mid-career survey that includes collaborative video and audio installations of Barnes' well known Murmur series (the starlings, also on the cover of the book).

It's back-to-back Michigan action this fall for Barnes, as he has two other solos opening there this month: (Un)natural History: The Museum Unveiled, opens September 17, 2009 at the University of Michigan Art Museum, Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Past Perfect/Future Tense: Authenticity and Replication, opens September 17, 2009 at the University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The work being unveiled at these three shows includes found images of museum staff holding up sheets behind artifacts for photography. Barnes draws our attention to the margins of the image, where we can sometimes see the hands and feet of the otherwise completely obscured photographers' assistants and everyday objects on shelves behind them, such as a salt shaker and a thermos.

Recently, over lunch, Barnes gave me some insight into his new work, which also includes striking photographs of molds used by museums to cast prehistoric remains:

Past perfect implies an action in the past which occurred before another action, also in the past. In much the same way the layering of history and memory... marks points in time moving towards an unknowable future.

Animal Logic image Richard Barnes.

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