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 All prior digital exhibitions have been archived on our website and appear below.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.
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 .