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As early as the introduction of railroads and the telegraph system, the Western landscape has struggled with the aesthetics of convenience. From commercial interests like strip malls and billboards, to national systems like highways and telephone wires, to individual interventions like graffiti and public sculpture, the definition of “eyesore” is a constantly shifting target. In a new book, photographer Annette LeMay Burke has turned her eye to one of the latest incursions on the visual landscape: cell phone towers cosplaying as trees.
Over the course of 66 color landscapes, Burke explores scenarios which largely feature giant fake trees hosting a crow’s nests of cellular transmitters. Though the initial sense of FAUXLIAGE (Daylight, May 2021) is somewhat playful, because the subject matter is so profoundly absurd, the litany of images soon takes on a kind of Stepford Wives feeling of dread. There is something wrong with the trees that are not trees. Even driving by them at highway speed, there is a jarring disconnect as our eye sorts the organic from the imposter. Presented here for longer reflection, these towers shift from briefly visually dislocating to vaguely, then increasingly, disturbing.
In other images, churches boost their reception by secreting cell towers inside giant crosses, and an American Legion post attempts to doll up a tower by using it as a flag pole. Here, we enter a kind of uncanny valley as symbols of worship take on a surveillance role, transmitting not only our thoughts and prayers, but our data and location. We are used to symbols that signify; it is something else to realize that as we look to them, they look back into us.
In fact, the very nature of the towers’ use requires them to rise above the urban horizon. Burke has leveraged this, often framing towers to “peek” at the surrounding scene, which lends itself to the sense that we are being watched, constantly. Fauxliage, as the artist calls it, is the ghillie suit of surveillance culture, and Burke’s observations of these poorly concealed observers is canny, occasionally funny, and ultimately rather ominous.
“Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants—11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data—a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were…
he ownership of images has a long and nuanced legal history, which has evolved dramatically in recent years as cultural standards and photographic technologies have rapidly advanced
The show, which honors the 50th anniversary of an exhibition history once ignored, continues a series of projects documenting Wilmington’s contemporary art scene.
Renty and his daughter Delia. Renty was an enslaved African, kidnapped from the Congo, sold and forced into slave labor on the South Carolina plantation of B.F. Taylor
What is the relation between possessing a person, possessing their image, and dispossessing their progeny
As a scholar of African American history and photography whose work has focused on the status of violent images in museums and archives, I fully support the validity of Ms. Tamara Lanier’s claim and the amicus brief.
Two K-12 art teachers will each receive a $1,000 cash gift and an additional $500 to put toward classroom art supplies. Nominations are due October 31.
The daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor, Delia, Drana, Alfred, Jack, George Fassena, and Jem remained in an unused storage cabinet until 1975, when it was discovered by an employee of the Peabody Museum.
I am writing in support of the amicus curiae brief submitted by Professor Ariella Aïsha Azoulay of Brown University for the full restitution of the daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor and his daughter Delia, currently held by Harvard University, to their familial descendant, Tamara Lanier.
We cannot be indifferent to the long-lasting effects of photography. The photographs at the center of Lanier v. Harvard are relentless in making Renty and Delia Taylor work and perform as slaves. The pain inflicted on them has not ceased. Photography has the capacity to propagate harm, and we have the moral obligation to interrupt…