Pho­tograph­ing pho­to­graphs

Anne Col­lier blurs the line be­tween the pho­tog­ra­pher, photo sub­ject and viewer


Pho­tog­ra­phy is no truth-teller, and Anne Col­lier’s not the first artist to ex­plore its slip­pery sub­jec­tive-ob­jec­tive bait and switch. She has emerged, though, as one of its most at­tuned crit­ics.

At the Art Gallery of On­tario, which is host­ing the first ca­reer ret­ro­spec­tive of the 45-year-old Los An­ge­les­based artist, 22 of Col­lier’s coolly heady im­ages line the walls of the fourth floor gal­leries.

They’re rec­og­niz­able, and not: There are stir­ring por­traits of Judy Gar­land and Mar­i­lyn Monroe, but shot from the pages of a book, its pages splayed flat and ear­marked with Col­lier’s coloured stick­ies.

A keen col­lec­tor and amal­gam­a­tor, Col­lier’s prac­tice of rep­re­sent­ing pop-cul­tural im­ages from an ob­vi­ous re­move sits within the genre of ap­pro­pri­a­tion, sure; but that’s not giv- ing quite enough credit. Col­lier’s pic­tures de­scribe the tease a photo rep­re­sents: of a dis­tance, held up tan­ta­liz­ingly close, but un­bridge­able nonethe­less.

Re­moved by a fur­ther de­gree, Col­lier un­der­scores the ar­ti­fice of in­ti­macy a pho­to­graph — es­pe­cially of the fa­mous — aims to be.

That the vast ma­jor­ity of her pic­tures are ap­pro­pri­ated im­ages of women should be no sur­prise.

Pho­tog­ra­phy am­pli­fied the in­fa­mous male gaze ex­po­nen­tially, mak­ing the art-his­tor­i­cal prac­tice of ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion fast, cheap and out of con­trol. This, ul­ti­mately, is Col­lier’s sub­ject: the not-so-fine lines be­tween the rep­re­sented, the ob­jec­ti­fied and the un­abashedly ma­nip­u­la­tive, and call­ing their bluff by mak­ing it her own. Anne Col­lier, or­ga­nized by the Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art Chicago, con­tin­ues to Jan. 10.


Anne Col­lier, Folded Madonna Poster (Steven Meisel), 2007

Anne Col­lier, 8x10 (Jim), 2007. Taken at the site where Col­lier scat­tered the ashes of her par­ents, Lynda and Jim, she sub­verts a pho­to­graph’s nom­i­nal role as a pre­server of mem­ory and a stand-in for a per­son.

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