Digital Exhibitions

Digital exhibitions showcase photographs from the MoCP permanent collection that have been selected by artists, curators, cultural producers, educators, and students often in response to the current exhibition on view. These exhibitions are displayed for a period of time in the MoCP’s Cornerstone Gallery —on monitors in the MoCP’s two windows at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Harrison Street—and virtually on the MoCP’s website. Originally conceived by artist Jan Tichy as part of a 2012 commission, Tichy invited guests to mine the MoCP collection and organize their own exhibitions around a central theme of their choosing that were displayed in the Cornerstone Gallery. All prior digital exhibitions have been archived on our website and appear below.

This project has been generously supported by the David C. and Sarajean Ruttenberg Foundation.

Current Exhibition


Past Digital Exhibitions

Fashion, Film and Fame: Works from the MoCP Collection

Simorgh, Curated by Narimon Safavi

Just as modern Iran, as depicted by this exhibition may at times seem melancholic or even depressed to the uninitiated eyes; to those aware of the Iranian history , the people of the country may seem quietly resilient and have a subdued confidence of a three millenia old culture of survivors. Surely current Iran is in part a product of a Utopian revolution and a devastating war with Iraq , as well as international sanctions. Sense of Global Isolation , selective nostalgia for the era before the revolution and a collective deprivation complex from worldly opportunities are all too common.

Yet, what distinguishes Iranians from many other nations that have disappeared from the face of the earth in the last 2500 years, is their subversive ability ( a gift from their poetry and art ) to survive the adversities of history and to reinvent themselves. Iran has re-risen to the level of a global power three times in its history after devastating defeats from outsiders as well as overcoming tyranny from insider. Hence , the SIMORGH , or the Persian Phoenix is the apt metaphor for my presentation , and my protestation of the title of this exhibition. What usually follows the burning of a generation is re-generation. -Narimon Safavi

Continuity Drift, curated by Kate Bowen

In the past four years, over thirty artists, curators, cultural producers, educators, and students have assembled digital exhibitions for the Cornerstone Gallery. The Cornerstone Gallery Project invites an open read of the collection, and as individuals curate unique projects, inevitably there is repetition in the selections made.

As the technical manager of the Cornerstone Gallery I have the opportunity to see how popular images like Bernice Abbott’s Collision of Two Balls or Robert Mapplethorpe’s Self Portrait, #385 operate in exhibitions with themes as disparate as abstraction, the human body, and music. As another example, images from the Changing Chicago Project, which had a specific directive for what and how participating artists explored the city of Chicago, have been used to express both the politics likely intended by the authors and also challenge the politics of the moment in which they were made. Within the framework of digital exhibitions, images are used to express an idea as if they are bits of language to appear as parts of a sentence.

Their original meaning and context is not removed, but rather reexamined, reformulated, and expanded.

Continuity Drift is a term that describes what happens to an episodic narrative structure over time. As a story progresses connections are made that weren’t initially present, what was thought to be truth becomes a type of fiction. What was perceived as insignificant becomes important. With this in mind I considered a smaller set of images within the collection, focusing on those that had been chosen multiple times by different curators. Typically digital exhibitions are set to play in a continuous synchronized loop allowing the same images in the left and right window to always be seen together. With this selection the slideshows will fall out of sync slowly over the course of the exhibition allowing for these images to connect in new ways within this defined set. By repackaging these works once again, my exhibition embraces ways the meanings of photographs are always being negotiated. Part of that negotiation is the context that surrounds an image, and the endless number of connections that can be made when visual imagery is paired.

Negotiations of Monumentality in Urban Chaos, curated by Onur Öztürk

I find cities beautifully chaotic. In cosmopolitan centers around the world, millions of people from various ethnic, national and cultural backgrounds live and work together. During their daily lives, urban dwellers are constantly surrounded with man-made images, objects and spaces. Originally from the Latin verb monere urban monuments remind us the ideological motivations of their creators and patrons.

Their monumentality though can only be created in the minds of the viewers through a constant negotiation. I believe photography has the best capacity to capture this process. Through the lenses of their cameras, photographers capture monuments in their social, political and historical contexts.

In my opinion urban monuments come in various forms. In addition to more traditional examples of architecture, architectural sculpture, or public art; a sand castle by the North Avenue Beach or a firework in Shanghai may express monumentality in an urban fabric through a visual presence.

Just like the urban dwellers, monuments gradually appear in cities, manifest their forms and eventually (and sometimes in unexpectedly tragic circumstances) disappear from the urban scene. Photographers consistently capture phases of this transformation intentionally or subconsciously. -Onur Öztürk

UTOPIA: Customs Declaration Form, curated by Tim Kinsella

UTOPIA: Customs Declaration Form Sure Utopia is a symbol and I guess people assume it cannot actually be realized. And as a symbol it represents a space.

And as a space it must have parameters because that is what specifically defines a space - its boundaries - or else that space would just expand endlessly and become everywhere.

So what defines the borders of Utopia? What tension is at the boundaries of our imagined perfection? What stands at its fences looking in? And how is it guarded? This is our fantasies I'm talking about - liberated from concerns of applicable practicality and necessity. In our ideals and dreams, do we build tall walls at the edges of Utopia Town?

Even the words we use on our most formal of forms are blurry: “customs" stands as a point of access or denial and "customs" define a culture. A "form" is filled out with a ballpoint pen to admit or omit your casual smugglings, and your spirit embodies your "form."

These photos, grouped with these thoughts in mind, in hopes that collectively they might subconsciously evoke these questions, represent the appropriate borders I could think to draw for one entering Michael's vision of Chicago Music.

--Tim Kinsella in conjunction with the exhibition "Michael Schmelling: Your Blues" Oct 16 — Dec 21, 2014

Ways of Seeing, curated by Hyounsang Yoo

Ways of Seeing is a collection of images from the MOCP archive. The concept of the exhibition stems from public perceptions of military acts and borderlands, versus the human reality of the individuals serving in these positions or living in contested areas.

Many images of military acts are highly censored and people cannot access them in daily life.

As Paul Virilio states “the more speed increases, the faster freedom decreases.” Jean Baudrillard contends that simulacra depict things that either have no reality to begin with, or that no longer have any original meaning. I investigate both ideas by questioning the simulacra of the process of selection.

This selection of photographs is divided into two main sections—one showing the inside perspective of a military borderland and the other suggesting an outside perspective, such as images containing gestures of people gazing and looking at images through screens or other devices. This collection of images represents how “reality” in photographs can change and morph, depending on the context. --Hyounsang Yoo

My Favorite Things, curated by Iké Udé

I sought and selected images that resonated with my varied aesthetic sensibilities and sympathies.

In my work, I am increasingly interested in the presence of an image or images and less with meaning, specificity, and politics. And it is exactly this poetic meaningless and presence that inspired the exhibition, My Favorite Things, which points to a newer direction of keen interest in my work and the work? of others that I fancy. --Iké Udé

We Are Who We Are Wherever We May Be, curated by Aleksandar Hemon and Teri Boyd

Photography teaches us: there is no space but human space. There are no human bodies outside space. We are who we are wherever we may be. Baruch de Spinoza: “The more an image is joined with other images, the more often it flourishes.” The more a body is joined with other bodies, the more it flourishes. There is no body without a human gaze. There is no photography without the body. There is no photograph without a gaze—going in, coming out.

We look at photographs, they return the gaze. Roland Barthes. “The effect it produces upon me is not to restore what has been abolished (by time, by distance) but to attest that what I see has indeed existed.” If Photography shows what has existed, the gaze is connected to the mystical. Wittgenstein: “It is not how things are in the world that is mystical, but that it exists.”

How can you know that those people existed? (Descartes: “…and yet what do I see from the window beyond hats and cloaks that might cover artificial machines, whose motions might be determined by springs?”) They look at us, we look back. Barthes: “In Photography I can never deny that the thing has been there.” Where? Where is there? There is the time. The photograph is the space.

We want to keep looking at the people in the photographs (the photographer included), for there is always desire to know them, to know more. The people in the photos: where are they now? Nowhere, except in the photos. Every photograph is a certificate of presence (Barthes) and a document of absence.

We cannot look away, just as the image cannot avert its eyes, because what is in the photograph cannot be known, it can only be looked at. Wittgenstein: “What can be shown cannot be said.” Thus: What is seen is not said. What can be known is the gaze.

Kafka: “We photograph things in order to drive them out of our minds.”
Winogrand: “I photograph to see what something will look like photographed.”
Barthes: “I want a History of Looking.”

You stop (yes, you!) on the street to look at a photograph, which is then displaced by another one. Where did it go? Where are you going? You are who you are, wherever you may be.

Motherhood in the MoCP Collection

These images are drawn from the Museum of Contemporary Photography’s permanent collection to connect with themes explored in the exhibition Home Truths: Photography and Motherhood. In her essay for Home Truths, curator Susan Bright states that the exhibition “aims to challenge long-held stereotypes and sentimental views of motherhood.”

In that spirit, this selection of pictures juxtaposes iconic images and photographic tropes of maternity with unembellished, and at times jarring, portrayals of motherhood and familial relationships. Like the exhibition, this set expresses a range of emotions and observations associated with parenting, while also considering ways visual culture influences the experience of being both a mother and a child.

The Travelling Photographer, curated by Victoria Sambunaris

There is a sense of euphoria when first leaving New York and hitting the road. After crossing the Mississippi River going west, everything slows down. The wheels begin to churn and the bottled up thoughts begin to flow. The inner turmoil that seemed enormous appears trivial. Wide vistas pass along the windshield and the mind becomes transfixed. Passing in and out of towns, the townsfolk are curious about the sole traveler. Fleeting encounters of whole lives lived are pondered while driving on.

This is the allure of life on the road as a traveling photographer.

The hardest part is leaving what is comfortable, meeting the unfamiliar, and getting out of the car to take a picture. The capture of a singular moment—as in these photographs—is addictive. It keeps a photographer coming back and moving on.

The two bodies of work here—one of places, the other of people—might well be manifestations of the traveling photographer. I chose photographs from the collection that I identified with: views that I might have seen, people that I might have met, but didn’t. I wish I had.

The places reflect the physical experience of traversing the road: the anonymous towns, the snaking roads, the distant trains, the incessant sky, the grandeur of the open landscape. The people comprise intimate moments and transitory views of lives lived in the worlds that make up who we are in this place, at this time: the enraptured dancer, the jumping cowboy, the painted lady, the fellow traveler, the countless glances.

Each moment in each photograph has its own tale to tell and represents someone’s world—to know, to remember, and, in this digital exhibition, to make your own.

For more information, view the Victoria Sambunaris: Taxonomy of a Landscape exhibition page .

Jan Tichy Project


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