Ngan Le, Book Arts Magazine, WInter 2010
BARBARA ROSENTHAL : “THE JOURNAL GIVES ME IDEAS”
at LETTRÉTAGE, Berlin
"Book Arts Magazine", Winter 2010
Review by Ngan Le
After Barbara Rosenthal's multi-part presentation of selected writing and photographs from three of her books, Clues to Myself, Sensations, and Soul & Psyche; a live reading from Homo Futurus; and projections of never-before-seen pages from the diaries she's kept since age 11 (called Journals), a person could get the feeling that this New York-born artist/writer exists in some not-quite earthly realm. "Das Tagebuch gibt mir Ideen" (The Journal Gives Me Ideas), an evening with her at Lettrétage: Das junge Literaturhaus in Berlin on 9 July, brought us into her life-to-art methods of production.
Her work is surreal, originating as it does from personal fears, dreams, and a world that does include daily events, but even though she writes the date on which her pencil touches her pages, there are otherwise no natural boundaries. No usual time frame: the past and present appear simultaneously as memories and plans; no usual reality: perception and imagination mix as reportage and fiction. She accomplishes this Special Rosenthal Infinite Universe by carefully controlling design and balance, text and image, hand and camera, information and imagination. She is an artist who recognizes and shows us the chaos of real life by throwing all its parts up in the air, letting her subconscious catch them like some kind of juggler, but then throwing them all up again in some other way so they falls to Earth as art.
Rosenthal’s live presentation only added to the surreal experience. Was it her sonorous voice commanding total attention, equally childlike and imposing, with its inflected intonations and little raspy catch? Her zany, electric, frenzied energy? Her wild, curly red hair? Or her palms spread wide apart with the fervour of a preacher playing air-accordian? Her body speaks the words before she says them. She says she writes more fluently than she speaks, "Words come out of my fingers better than out of my mouth," she says. Whatever it was, I did not begin to understand Rosenthal until I allowed myself to let go of my own reality, and enter her psyche with her, which is what Tom Bresemann, the curator of Lettrétage, had in mind when he invited her back this season to show her Journals, six months after her videos there last February, "Existential Word Play.
"Rosenthal’s journal pages are not typical in that they do not describe daily events in nice, even lines. The term “journal” isn't adequate. Rather, the pages are filled with events, dreams, descriptions, impressions, quotes, puns, games, ideas, lists, diagrams, etc., that assist her compulsive art-making, even though she says she keeps separate Project Books, To Do Books, and volumes she calls Completed/Save. The Journals are more like sketchbooks, even though most of the sketches are in text, although non-linear in thought, sequence and graphics. Like sketching at many locations on a page to build up a drawing, her jottings keep roiling until insight springs, and then magically turn into an idea for an art project in publishable form, or video, or performance. What becomes so apparent when we allow ourselves to enter her page, willingly leaving our own sense of "normal" behind, is that her inimical positionings, no matter how Dada they look, are not meant to obscure communication, not constructed as pretense to avant-gardism, not fashioned in a whimsical way, but are formed precisely to aid communication: they are a way of separating and defining elements that would, if presented in a more usual, linear, form, actually be amalgamated chaotically.
What I mean is that what looks at first to be chaotic, on second look makes more sense of the parts as discreet units, as well as related connectivities; separating elements on a page, and utilizing the double page as a single space, is Rosenthal's way of maintaining the integrity of the individual pieces, but balancing them by making them appear simultaneously, yet on seemingly different planes, or moving at different speeds, directions and distances from us, but still all there at once. When we look around many of the Journals’ double pages, we can see her turn life into art. The process seems to be: 1. Real event noted. 2. Insight dcvelops. 3. Art project idea springs. For example, on 14 March, 2009, we see her Hand of Cards Cardgame, with a deck of cards in the shape of her hand develop from an exhortation to herself to bear up under whatever the day has brought (“Play the hand you’re dealt.”) and later that day, confronting her anxiety again, the first germ of an idea for her video Secret Codes. As of this writing, Hand of Cards Cardgame is still under development, but Secret Codes, an image-text video in English, German and Yiddish was completed and premiered at Directors’ Lounge in Berlin within the year. This is a very prolific artist.
Her publisher, Visual Studies Workshop Press, is known for promoting original forms, and Rosenthal's offset books, especially Clues to Myself (1981), Homo Futurus (1986) and Soul & Psyche (1998) which relay edited journal-text, all visually resemble the Journals, too, in that elements often don't run straight on a page; text blocks might be slanted, upside-down, in the margins, or partially obscured; or letters might be missing from words. In Homo Futurus, the words often pretend to be just texture, partially obscured by elements like newspaper clippings, photographs, postcards, etc. she calls "trompe l'oeil" that seem to have been dropped onto the pages. These outside sources, often reporting failed attempts by fraught individuals, such as nuns, aerialists, caged animals and threatened plants, who not only add visual elements to the artistic composition of her thoughts on the page, but also validate her personal worldview, which is definitely bleak, and filled with dark humour. I am especially partial to her disturbingly eerie Surreal Photographs, such as Lone Tree, Gramercy Horse-Post Shadow and Swallowing Forest; they serve as dissonant notes which reinforce the uneasiness one feels while reading her prose, particularly the one-page fictions such as I Killed Jesus Christ, recently republished by Wood Coin magazine, or Father's Real Family, or Icy Cold, all from her book Sensations, which played as audio at Lettrétage while the photos were projected when the audience entered. When we do allow ourselves to enter her world, and get our bearings, and actually read or hear the text, we are rewarded with breathtaking, and extremely tightly worded philosophy: "Life Has A Life Of Its Own," being my favorite, but also some even more disconcertingly apt, like "All History -- documentation, journalism, diplomacy, thought, art, culture, etc. -- serves only to influence behavior of single individuals at single moments."
In contrast to the graphic control of her published books, however, the rawness of the Journals is what had the most impact on me, particularly her varied handwritings. The artist herself is very interested in her irregular graphology, which of course unlocks different psychological states (although I can’t help wondering if it might also be a symptom of the chronic-pain condition she suffers from, called neuropathy, which causes her to keep her limbs in constant motion). She writes in the Journals about the letters as she forms them, wondering about a certain ornate “F” ("creativity?"), or stilt-like “H” ("instability?"), or "my impossibility of going back and forth to make an 's’", which does, in fact, look more like a “j.” She's created a kind of shorthand mostly out of phonemes rather than of single letters, I think, and until one sees them many times they are very hard to read. Even for her, but I don't think she cares. She even states on one page that: “A clear handwriting makes me feel very, very exposed.” Rosenthal has created several artworks that explore handwriting, in fact, some of which were discussed in the August issue of this publication by Jennifer Brewin. Barbara Rosenthal is an individual who might tell you the most intimate detail of her private life in print, or appear in video casually naked, but before she issues a finished work of art she doesn’t reveal anything too easily. So, in contrast to the persona she creates in her books, a much more tentative and vulnerable side of her is exposed by the Journals. Many of her most emotional and intimate thoughts, particularly about the other people in her life, are obscured by “poor” handwriting, and to me that's how she seemed most human.
In building her art via journal entries that have charted her path for almost fifty years, there is this implicit understanding: that life is ever-changing, and it can never be perfect. She states in Homo Futurus, “Only that which exists is perfect enough to break into Reality. Everyone knows the Ideal is always fraught with flaws which cause its foil by Reality.” And then she goes on to think even more deeply about why: "The flaw of the Ideal is that it does not encounter Time or Touch." The capitalization is Rosenthal's, as if to say that even concepts are merely place-holding names, not extant in any way. Her Journals might be viewed as formative stages in identity-building by an artist afraid of losing herself, or perhaps not ever getting to know herself, but her introspection is so intense, and so clearly worded, that the reader can't help but participate in it: her insights become absolutely shared, and thus they speak of universal humanity. She says that everything she creates is "existential", and that "all encounter is performance and persona", and she's entitled her forthcoming book (also VSW Press), Performance & Persona because of it. On the pages of her Journals we can see the notes of a normal event in a normal way give out a profound insight, and then, in a nearby text-block, the seed of an artwork she'll later produce. Barbara Rosenthal’s willingness to lay bare her creative process is what was so valuable about this event.
Ngan Le is an American art historian and curator based in Berlin, with special interest in Asian and image-text art. Ngannyperson <at> yahoo.com
Ngan Le, NY Arts Magazine, Sept. 2011
THE SEARCH FOR MEANING IN ART:
SOUL-PICTURE LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHS:
Kirsten Pinz, Bela Letto, and Barbara Rosenthal in Berlin
by Ngan Le
"Seelenbilder und Landschaften - Fotografien Barbara Rosenthal, Kirsten Pinz, Bela Letto" ("Landscape Photographs as Artist’s Metaphor") 13 August - 31 August 2011 Vernissage Friday 12 August, 19h .Music live video/music performance by Barbara Rosenthal and DJ RoBeat 17 August , 20h; Curator: Roland Göckel Projects. Galerie Christian Glass, Pariser Str. 11, 10719 Berlin Die-Sa 13-19 Uhr HYPERLINK "http://www.galerie-glass.de/"http://www.galerie-glass.de
Viewers expect photography to portray the outer world, and with greater accuracy than other media. But the best fine art photography expresses the photographer’s inner mind.
In Berlin this summer, the photo-text-music-video installation "Seelenbilder und Landschaften" ("Landscapes as Artist's Metaphor") at Galerie Christian Glass, presented three international fine-arts photographers who portray real, recognizable imagery in ways that define themselves more than the subject matter. Curated by Roland Göckel, the exhibition showed how in the hands of Kirsten Pinz (Berlin), Bela Letto (Rumania) and Barbara Rosenthal (New York), cameras become windows to souls. Pinz's and Letto's digital color photography hung across from each other in the front gallery; Rosenthal's analog 35mm black-and-white film photographs hung in the back gallery with a table of her books and videos, and in the basement video lounge her photo-poetry-DVD "Surreal Photo-Stories" played as a loop. On August 17, there was also an evening of Rosenthal’s photo-and-text-based video shorts in collaboration with live electronic music by Berlin's DJ RoBeat. Galerie Glass has made a bold statement for photography as an art form, and as a contemporary New Media genre.
All three photographers express themselves in terms of "mood", but quite differently. The photographs of Kirsten Pinz and Bela Letto are digital color, all variously sized and framed, and they both shoot stop-action from one stationary and perpendicularly framed viewpoint. Barbara Rosenthal’ images are never still, and her long tonal-range grayscale photographs are very curious and other-worldly.
Barbara Rosenthal’s uniform, almost starkly framed and matted, 35mm full-frame analog-film unmanipulated digital prints, do, inarguably depict natural landscapes. But they more strongly present an internal world (that can only exist in her own mind). This world filters through the technical specs of her manual cameras, lenses, and chemical processing and digital printing, which leave pictorial evidence of themselves she refers to as "artifacts". Her photographs are strikingly original, unusual and personal. She speaks of "photographic vision”, describing it as "metaphysical, surreal, existential, dream-induced, fable-like, magic."
The 15 photographs in her portfolio for this show were shot within the last 5 years on three continents, many from moving conveyances. The camera pushes into space on various planes, the landscape thrusts itself toward the edges, races into corners, showing much sky. The world whirls and streaks around this photographer, and she is not stationary within it. Rosenthal has often said she photographs in a trance. She says she shoots “as if all the objects in a moving universe strike a perfect balance, and everything stops or leaves a trail.
“My eye-mind grabs things coming at me from all sides simultaneously; I calculate all the different speeds, vectors, quarks, masses and locations. My tally-mind tallies them against the rectangle, lens, shutter speed and aperture. I know how they’re going to hit. I see them as a converging, moving target. I foresee the finished scene. It’s very fast, but I align myself and wait or keep shifting as the pieces fly into place. That’s when I click the shutter."
It would be wrong to think of Barbara Rosenthal’s photographs as merely bizarre landscapes. These resultant "moments of perfect balance" and "perfect" relationships have an ominous feeling, which clues us to the artist’s world view. Her basement DVD loop, "Surreal Photo-Stories", revealed more of her Kafkaesque mental landscape, now set with ominous characters, animals, architecture and scenery. This 20-minute DVD of 130 of her photographs (1976-2011) organizes them into the fable-like categories she first became aware of when preparing her book "Soul & Psyche" in 1996: Trapped Figures, Tiny Houses, Strange Neighborhoods, Aberrant Trees, Sinister Forests, Eerie Locations, Free Birds, Renegade Horses and Dark Continents. The soundtrack is Rosenthal's voice reading surreal stories from her book "Sensations”. The stories and photographs tell of an individual seeking safety in a dangerous world, possibly of resurrection. Her work brings us into her unconscious and our own.
In Barbara Rosenthal's work, and in the photographs of Letto and Pinz, artists’ choice of subject matter, and use of their medium, transmit inner messages. Bela Letto and Kirsten Pinz both clearly define their subjects and locations (usually beachfront). They capitalize on a universal symbol: nothing seems more primal than seascapes, where three great forces yield to each other: land, water, and sky. Pinz and Letto both make the viewer feel still, silent, isolated, sad, yearning to immerse our souls in the vast ocean.
Kirstin Pinz, from the port city Hamburg, photographs incoming tide in realistic color and attention to detail. The sea is strong, assertive, with deep low-saturation blues and greens. The sand is uniform, undisturbed, the horizon absolutely straight. But a small object, such as a shell on the beach or a post in distant waters, anchors the isolated viewer's staunch gaze. Pinz believes in the invincibility of the individual.
Bela Letto's photographs are dreamier, impressionistic, in soft pastel, low-saturation, high-value color. They often showcase a single person ("The Angler") or hint at their presence ("Sylt”), in mid-distance. Letto's ocean breathes serenely at first. But then, on Letto's beach, a series of small obstacles must be carefully navigated, carefully negotiated, to enter the photographer’s personal space. Each of Letto’s photographs seems to lead the viewer on a path.
Barbara Rosenthal's memorable images might be the scenery of our dreams, or more likely, our racing wishes and nightmares. Her realm is the mental. Kirsten Pinz confronts reality boldly. Bela Letto's photographs are lonely and sensual.
Ngan Le is an American art historian and curator based in Berlin, with special interest in international and image-text art.
Jennifer Brewin (Book Arts UK); A.D. Coleman (Center for Photography Quarterly) FULL TEXT OF 6 VIDEO REVIEWS:
Clare Carswell, Flash Art International
"Barbara Rosenthal: Lucas Carrieri Gallery; Directors Lounge, Berlin"
by CLARE CARSWELL
FLASH ART ONLINE
(Review includes 2 color images. Captions read: "Barbara Rosenthal, Dead Heat, 2009. Still from film. Screened at Directors Lounge, Berlin, 2009." and Barbara Rosenthal, performance documentation from “Existential Interact” at Lucas Carrieri Gallery, Berlin, 2009.)
Dual solo events by avant-garde artist Barbara Rosenthal in Berlin this June, “An Evening With Barbara Rosenthal” at Directors Lounge and “Aperitiv With Barbara Rosenthal” at Lucas Carrieri Gallery, presented a rare glimpse of the range and power of this zany but elusive New York artist who has operated just below the radar for over thirty years. Directors Lounge screened her mini-retrospective, 33 remastered Existential Video Shorts, prefaced and concluded by impromptu performance and discussion. Lucas Carrieri Gallery hung three rooms of print suites: “Button Pins Shirts Prints,” “Logo Images,” and “Provocation Cards Prints,” which Rosenthal navigated whilst performing Existential Interact to begin the evening, and reading from Homo Futurus (Visual Studies Workshop Press, 1986) at the end.
At Directors Lounge, rarely seen works (Playing With Matches, 1992, 15sec) ran beside better known (How Much Does The Monkey Count, 1988, 4min), and one premiere, Dead Heat (2009, 3min), a pun meaning “tied race.” This simple, profound work splits the screen into 4 horizontal layers in which moving subjects (bird, horse, Rosenthal, ship) start together, then repeatedly traverse at their own speeds, intermittently lapping, but starting and ending simultaneously. No matter our lives, our limits are the same, and no matter our limits, our lives are different, she seems to say.
At LC, her text-art delivered pithy, poignant, prophetic commentaries (God Is The Idol Of Science; Life Has A Life Of Its Own; The Flaw Of The Ideal Is That It Does Not Encounter Time Or Touch,) high content, as usual, fabricated with low-tech materials. This is generous work by a mature and resilient artist. Finally, viewers are starting to “get” Barbara Rosenthal.
JOHN RUSSELL, The New York Times
THE NEW YORK TIMES
FRIDAY, JULY 29, 1988
"Views of Jewishness In Museum Video Show"
By JOHN RUSSELL
(Caption to still video image photograph accompanying article: "A clip from 'Leah Gluck: Victim of the Twins Experiments' by Barbara Rosenthal, one of the videotapes in a show at the Jewish Museum.")
This summer, the Jewish Museum has made its debut in the domain of video art. "Time and Memory: Video Art and Identity" is the general title of the show. Visitors to the museum will hear and see live canaries as a counterpoint to antiphonal readings from the diaries of Anne Frank and the confessions of a Chilean torturer. Schubert's early masterpiece "The Erl King" is sung and played fortissimo on tape while visitors are given the chance to summon at will a wide range of related images on the screen. This visitor had to miss Bart Friedman's "Harold's Bar Mitzvah" (1977), which has been giving great pleasure. (I also missed part of Beryl Korot's "Dachau 1974" (1975), which I had seen more than once when it first came out.) But Fred Riedel, the guest curator in charge of the show, brings any number of changes during its somewhat erratic course, and some of them have much to teach us.
The two videotapes made by Barbara Rosenthal -- "Women in the Camps" (1976-86) and "Leah Gluck: Victim of the Twins Experiments (1986) -- relate to "Say I'm a Jew" in so far as they, too, represent an attempt to come to terms with unbearable realities that were experienced at one remove -- a long one -- from their original source.
Ms. Rosenthal (born in New York fn 1948) describes how her father left the Bronx in order to be able to say quite flatly, "I'm an American," when asked what his heritage might be. A working-class Long Island neighborhood in which Jews were rarely seen seemed promising, but Ms. Rosenthal soon found that the local priest had warned the other children not to play with her. (What did he tell them? That she had personally killed Jesus Christ and had horns?) Learning about the Holocaust, she could not believe that it was over. "Dozens of times every day when I encounter an imperfection in Reality, I remember how unspeakably worse things could be, and have been, and at this very moment are, in the lives of others.
After years in which she was excluded from an American identity, yet not secure in a Jewish identity either," she decided to take her video camera and ask some people who had survived the camps to tell her what it had been like. The films that resulted have no quality whatever as "art," but in their quiet, painstaking, unemphatic way they tell us terrible truths. (Other individuals mentioned in separate sections of the above article are Anne Frank, Franz Schubert, Bart Friedman, Beryl Korot, Fred Riedel, Pier Marton, Nam June Paik and Shigeko Kubota, Allen Ginsburg, Allan Kaprow, Pierre Restany, Juan Downey, Claude Lanzmann, Grahame Weinbren and Roberta Friedman, Sigmund Freud, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. For more information, contact eMediaLoft.org)
Manohla Dargis, The Village Voice
THE VILLAGE VOICE
VOL. XXXIII NO. 33 AUGUST 16, 1988
"Countercurrents: Change of Direction"
Review of Barbara Rosenthal video show at DCTV
by Manohla Dargis
(Still image photograph and captian accompanying article: "Barbara Rosenthal's 'January 10, 1986, Savannah, GA.'")
July: petulant heat, beached rats, Bruce Willis. If adequate arts funding existed, perhaps the Collective, the Kitchen, and Millennium could program for at least a part of the summer.
One place to get a summer fix is under the peaked roof of the Downtown Community Television Center, an ex-fire station cum video center is a year-round Tuesday evening video program for the bargain price of just a buck. One recent program I included two Barbara Rosenthal short videotapes, A BOY AND HIS FATHER BUTCHER A DEER and JAN. 10, 1986, SAVANNAH GA. Rosenthal's work is incessantly personal, even naked, with an emphasis on language realized through stories, puns, songs, names, and confessions in her tapes. Over the image of the title in the 30-second "A Boy and His Father, Rosenthal reinvents remorse as elegy. She describes how, while fixing her VW bus years earlier, she missed the opportunity to film the butchering going on in an adjacent garage: "I had video equipment with me and should have set it up."
In the sentient, artless "Savannah, GA," Rosenthal's point-of-view is fixed. She rides shotgun in a car and, from this position, moves the camera restlessly across the confines of the auto for 10 minutes of uninterrupted real time -- over the rain-streaked windows, a rearview mirror, the dash, the driver's feet. She foregrounds the camera and the act of filming: The lens becomes visible during refocusing, pages of a notebook are awkwardly turned and flattened with her one free hand. Ubiquitous pop music, sports bulletins. The sounds of children playing, the admonishments of a father ("Do you see Mommy is busy?") fill the air. Occasionally, during the wanderings, a partially obscured newspaper with a photo is glimpsed on the floor of the car. Suddenly, the camera finds its story: The hand reaches down to pull the paper close into view. That very morning, while this family traveled through the state, Georgia executed a man for murders committed when he was 17. After a few moments, the paper is set down, the camera looks up and out the window, then down again at the paper, then abruptly turns to a new landscape, the back seat where Rosenthal's two young daughters are playing. It lingers, luxuriating in their presence; the girls smile. The older girl explains, "She's taking a picture of me."
WOMEN IN THE CAMPS and LEAH GLUCK: VICTIM OF THE TWINS EXPERIMENTS, Rosenthal's formally rigorous video testimonies from concentration camp survivors, are part of a superb exhibition entitled "Time and Memory: Video Art and Identity," at the Jewish Museum through September 1.
Other individuals mentioned in a separate paragraph of the above article are Nam June Paik, Shigeko Kubota, Allan Kaprow, and Allen Ginsberg. For more information, contact eMediaLoft.org
Deirdre Boyle, Sightlines
"Video Playback: Less is More, and other Video Verities"
by Deirdre Boyle
While viewing the videotapes in this year's Global Village Video and Television Documentary Festival, I renewed my subscription to the "less is more" philosophy. Independent Video began by adhering to this aesthetic out of sheer necessity. With only half-inch black-and-white equipment and either no editing or only primitive systems available, a tape had to rely on the sheer intimacy and immediacy of the medium and on presenting people and topics one wouldn't ordinarily encounter on TV or in the movies. Today, 14 years after the first potapaks were sold in the United States, just about everyone is trying to outstrip television with slick and gratuitous visuals, dizzying quick cuts, fancy computer graphics, living color (frequently out-of-registration!) heckling interviewers, and a crazy-quilt montage that serves more to confuse and distract viewers than to inform, inspire or delight them.
Few independents are courageous enough to let their subjects come across in the simple, direct way that was once video's hallmark. That's why it was so refreshing to discover, amid all the "televisionese" evident in this festival, HELEN WEBSTER: CANCER AND SELF-DISCOVERY by Barbara Rosenthal. Shot in black-and-white (probably on half-inch portapak), Rosenthal has let a marvelously articulate woman speak to us without embarrassment, with considerable laughter and occasional perplexity, about what it is like to live 15 years with cancer--"half-bald, with one breast, and a bag strapped to one side of my abdomen." With poems she's written and thoughts organized not to waste the viewer's rime, Helen Webster is funny, moving and irresistible as she talks about sex, her fear of death, and thoughts about suicide.
Afficionados of standard TV-style might dismiss this tape for its monotonous, flat, poorly lit image and uneventful camerawork, yet this very "lack of style" is ideal here. Rosenthal's unobtrusiveness lets us come close. Her rapport with Webster is clear: One or two words and a happy laugh from behind her camera are the only audible traces of the sensitivity and warmth that encouraged Webster to share her intimate and at times painful thoughts. Rosenthal trusted her subject to convey -- through voice, gesture, facial expression and pregnant pause -- her many thoughts and feelings about her life. We watch without any sense of being voyeurs. We are friendly witnesses to her self-discovery. It is Rosenthal's trust in her subject and her own invisible presence that makes this a memorable tape -- far more successful then others with slick production values and no heart.
Real respect for the people one portrays and artful simplicity in presenting them sets aside "video art" from the hit-and-run style of TV interviews that merely scratch the surface and never reach beyond the producer's preconception. We need more tapes like HELEN WEBSTER: CANCER AND SELF-DISCOVERY, where simplicity lets the minds and hearts of other human beings shine through the electronic beam.
Other individuals mentioned in separate sections of this article are Skip Blumberg, Philip Mallory Jones, Parker Auburn, Dan Reeves, Jerry Bass, and Maxi Cohen. For more information, contact ExperimentalTVCenter.org or eMediaLoft.org
Laura C. Lieberman , Afterimage
"Once Is Not Enough"
Review of show "Multiples" at Nexus Gallery, Chicago
by Laura C. Lieberman
Most appropriately, "Multiples" is seen from multiple vantage points. Two concurrent exhibitins -- one at the city-run Chastain Gallery, a handsome, recently renovated space located in a northwest Atlanta park and the other at Atlanta's most established alternative artists' space, Nexus Gallery, currently in temporary (and rather makeshift) quarters in a vintage downtown office building -- stem from a single national call for entries. That initial announcement specifically requested "artwork that exists in editions of larger than one" and encouraged the submission of "work that intends to circumvent the art marketplace's insistence on art as a unique and precious object.
The Nexus exhibit...included a mini-retrospective of Barbara Rosenthal's work, more than an hours's worth of short videos. Their stylistic crudity and underlying insistence on simplicity create an intimate and most effective directness. In NEWS TO FIT THE FAMILY (1988), for example, a naked man, woman, and two little girls enter an empty room and stand in front of four stacks of newspapers, the younger girl giggling and trying to hide behind her big sister. Then in a domestic setting, each member of the family, clothed now, relaxes with The New York Times, Village Voice, comics or TV.
Other individuals mentioned in other parts of this article include Julia Fenton, Michael Goodman, Paul Zubrzcki, Shellburne Thurber, Mark Lassiter, Nelson Mandela, Jerzy Rozenberg, Roger Palmer, and Davd A. Deis. For more information, contact eMediaLoft.org
D. Maria Benfield and Beth Berolzheimer, N.A.M.E. Gallery Publication
"Black and White Video"
by D. Maria Benfield and Beth Berolzheimer
Program notes for show "Black and White Video" at N.A.M.E. Gallery, Chicago
Featured tapes by Barbara Rosenthal: COLORS AND AURAS, BODY FOUND IN SUITCASES, KANDACE'S GRANDMOTHER, WOMEN IN THE CAMPS
In the early days of video art, black and white videotapes were generally produced out of necessity. Black and white video equipment was smaller, lighter, and cheaper than its color equivalent. It was possible to add color to the black and white signal because of the invention of various video synthesizers. However, many video artists were content with the black and white image and most intereted in the possibilities which the portability of the equipment allowed. Black and white video equipment could be taken into intimate situations, or simply small spaces, where the presence of larger equipment would have been intrusive or impossible.
Much early video work indicates the results of this early equipment being portable and black and white. It often uses a documentary style, aligning it with previous black and white photo and film documentary, whose influence is apparent in both form and content. An important component of the documentary tradition is the concern with representing the unrepresented. This involves using photography in oppsition to the dominant aesthetic of the media, which generally favors fictional work shot in studios, or in the case of news, sensationalist coverage of penny-press spectacle.
Video artists such as Barbara Rosenthal and Scott Jacobs continue this tradition and revitalize it with innovations. Their subject matter ispeople whose faces are rarely seen on television: individuals far from the mainstream of mass media representation. Not only who they are but also the way they are represented are in contrast to dominant representations. Barbara Rosenthal's interviews take place in the space of the subject, placing the viewer in an often uncomfortable position, on the line between voyeur and voyeur's object. Rosenthal's composition and subjects often reminds one of Diane Arbus' images, the black and white making them appear hyper-real, and at the same time more distanced and "framed" than color images.
FULL TEXT 11 OF BOOK REVIEWS /ARTICLES:
Richard Kostelanetz, Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes<
DICTIONARY OF THE AVANT-GARDES
Schirmer Books, NYC, 2002 cloth; 2004 paper
Ed: RICHARD KOSTELANETZ
ROSENTHAL, Barbara (1948), is a polyartist. She has produced photographs, videos, super/8 films, objects, games, stories, novels, performances, book-art, and "novelties." Among the last are Button Pins (1995-ongoing); You and I (1986), a card game where, she says, "two players continue to organize and trade word-cards, slowly revealing attitudes toward self and other"; and One 4-Word Book/4 One-Word Books (1995), which is bound shut on both sides, requiring two cuts to reveal contents. Another book, Soul & Psyche (1999), interrupts passages from six years of her journal with pages of photographs, the former written in an orthographic shorthand intended, as she says, to "eliminate every letter in a word unnecessary for its comprehension":
Apr 10, 1990. Invitd to ope in newly renovat MoMA. Pitful art decorat hulkng ovrsiz spce, tru squand rm; storys o vaultng emptnss whr mny xamps fr collec ought b dsplay on flrs walls. Arrog wastf archit, profligte, vain, ego-swllng, slf-glorfyng.
Disaffecting at first perhaps, Rosenthal's prose becomes more familiar and acceptable.
Rosenthal's work tends to be personal, if not autobiographical, each product reflecting her mentality at the time it was made. She writes that art comes from the "artist's psyche, intellect, and personality. It results in deep feelings of universal connection in viewers who pay full attention.
Rosenthal's photographs usually portray constrained individuals, aberrant trees, tiny houses, strange neighborhoods, and weird patterns of nature, sometimes accompanied by written comments. Rosenthal has noted that her videos are "rarely screened by many alternative spaces in the U.S. because, as letters regretfully state, 'They don't fit into any category, and aren't like any other artist enough to program with them." To a truly original artist, few rejection letters are so implicitly flattering.
Books: Clues to Myself, Rochester, New York, Visual Studies Workshop, 1981; Sensations. Rochester, New York, Visual Studies Workshop, 1984; Homo Futurus, Rochester, New York: Visual Studies Workshop, 1996; Soul & Psyche, Rochester, New York, Visual Studies Workshop, 1999. Interactive Novelties: Numerous objects. New York: Barbara Rosenthal, 1986-95. Videotapes: Reality Check, -����� et al. New York: Barbara Rosenthal, 1976--. "Deluxe Objects": Pocketful of Poesy, et al. New York, Barbara Rosenthal, 1997--. Films: Pregnancy Dreams, New York: Barbara Rosenthal 1979-94, et al. Multipaneled Conceptual Photographic Wall Works: Photoblock, 1987; Shoes Doubleprint, 1989; Starfish/Fossil/Twins, 1994; Five Houses on the Horizon, 1998; Satchadananda/Fonteyn, 1999, et al.
Matthew Hogan , Franklin Furnace Artists' Book Archive
FRANKLIN FURNACE ARTISTS' BOOK ARCHIVE
N.Y.C., Fall, 1988
"ESSAY ON THE WORK OF BARBARA ROSENTHAL"
By MATTHEW HOGAN, Archivist
I have been aware of Barbara Rosenthal's work since 1982, and actually met her in 1984. Of particular interest to me is her investigation of a society which finds it difficult to distinguish between, as she puts it, "reality and fantasy," while being obsessed with authoritative sources. In using common text-based forms (.i.e., newspapers, magazines, books, and so on) she is able to focus our attention on the generally held assumptions about the world we live in.
Ms Rosenthal would like to get beyond "info glut," common even in the art world, so as to examine both universal and individual ways of knowing how to measure and judge moral and political issues. Her choice to focus on "replicable media" like photography and printed texts is a nexus for carrying on her inquiries. Both the book and the photograph live double lives: on the one hand they are a source of documentation; on the other hand, they are artistic media. The line between these two is often defused and subjective. Ms Rosenthal's investigation of these notions and issues has lead to an interesting body of work in which the containers, book and photograph, are turned inward and outward and the effects tested and recorded.
Behind this investigation of objective and subjective knowledge, lies her search for clues to a personal understanding of life. However, I think that Ms. Rosenthal's aim is to enlighten us and not just to grope for her own peace of mind.
It is interesting that in her search for public reactions and societal values, she has chosen intimate vehicles to realize her work. The book is generally encountered on a one-to-one basis, while photography has the potential to reveal the most intimate aspects of life. It is with the use of videotapes and installations that Ms Rosenthal's work takes a step away from the intimate experience.
The so-called artists' book is becoming more popular every day. In many cases, the publication appears as a weak link to the individual���s primary work. With Ms Rosenthal this is not the case. Her use of the book and investigations into language are unique and strong. She seems to be following a line of inquiry unlike any of her peers. It is not an esoteric search for an arcane goal, but a part of her desire to resolve the issues outlined above. Personally, I find the work has a good mix of wit and pathos.
Judith Hoffberg, Umbrella Magazine (Dec. 2000)
Pasadena, CA, Vol. 23, No. 3, December 2000
"THREE FROM BARBARA ROSENTHAL:"
By JUDITH HOFFBERG
Names/Lives (New York, 2000) has a trompe l'oeil Yellow Pages cover, and tells how the artist one day in 1991 noticed a glazier's truck pass by bearing the name "Glasser and Sons"; sometime later she found a news article about conjoined twins named "Binder," and a project was born! When she came across a name bearing a life-picture that struck her, she scribbled it in the back of her journal or notepad and periodically typed them over a ten-year period, always wondering how much influence the name had on the particular individual. The individual's "fate", so far as it is known, is printed with the name. In addition, the book carries another name list called The A-L-L-A-N Project, for A.D. Coleman, the photography critic. He often reflected on the least common of his name's spellings, so while keeping her Names/Lives project going, she also collected A-1-l-a-n names and compiled them along with their bearer's occupation or life circumstance. Both sections of the book make highly amusing reading.
Haunted House (New York, 2000) is an excerpt from Rosenthal's unpublished novel. Wish for Amnesia. This fictional segment takes a manic-depressive mother and her teenage daughter for a harrowing drive through the stormy countryside of Princeton, NJ. one fall afternoon. Magic and reality hover between the lines.
Introduction to the (Clues to Myself, Sensations, Homo Futurus) Trilogy, Fourth Edition by Barbara Rosenthal (New York, 2000) is the fourth edition of an introduction by the author to the 3-volume trilogy previously published by Visual Studies Workshop Press, providing the reader some insight into the author's ideas about the pubic and private, and her personal rationale, philosophy, psychology and methods concerning the production of art. Each book is discussed and somewhat analyzed in terms of their relationship to each other, and their methodology. Order from Printed Matter.
L. Schneider, Score Magazine
Ed: Crag Hill
By L. SCHNEIDER
On the first page of Barbara Rosenthal's book, Homo Futurus, she writes: "Making art: discontinuant processing of raw experience."
And Homo Futurus is exactly that...an artist's documentation of the processing of the "raw experience" of life. It is a kind of scrapbook, composed of diary-like prose-poetry entries, with photos, letters, newspaper clippings and other oddments superimposed on the text.
As in a family album or journal, Rosenthal's book encompasses the entirety of the artist's life; nothing is too inconsequential or too personal or too painful to mention -- from a line her daughter says, comments on the creative process, refrigerator troubles, to an account of her mother's hospitalization and death.
According to Rosenthal, the visual material in the book -- the snapshots, etc, -- only appear to obscure parts of the text. In reality, she says, the words were cut and the poetry written to the shape of the pages to give the effect of "missing" words. The reader's possible frustration with the seemingly incomplete text was intentional, she said, "to indicate the intrusion of the world's data...on the running flow of an artist's/individual's conscious or stream of conscious."
"That frustration with interference," she says, "is very much a part of my life, and writing.... It is this constant butting up of the external and internal flow of language and information and imagery that I mean to convey."
Convey it she does. Spanning a period of two years (1982-4), the book is a compelling glimpse of a life charged with psychic energy. It seems to be only a chapter in what must be a much large work, the life of Barbara Rosenthal.
The book, 48 perfect-bound pages, was published in 1986 by Visual Studies Workshop Press. Copies are available from Printed Matter, NYC.
Judith Hoffberg, Umbrella Magazine (1986)
Pasadena, CA, 1986
"Homo Futurus and Introduction to the Trilogy: Revised Second Edition"
By JUDITH HOFFBERG
Homo Futurus by Barbara Rosenthal, the last of the trilogy started with Clues to Myself and Sensations, all published by Visual Studies Workshop Press, has been released this year with 37 surreal photographs, 26 trompe 1'oeil overlays, and 34 pages of continuous journal-form text. Herein we get private, public, social and universal material gleaned from news sources, literature, science, and personal archives such as diaries, etc., all combined in mixed graphic media with the artist's surreal landscape photographs, making a unified visual-verbal double-page image, and allowing the reader to perceive philosophically art and humankind. Perhaps this is no longer a "Clues to Myself"�� exercise, but more a ���Clues to Ourselves���. Available from Printed Matter, NYC, Artworks, LA, or from the artist, New York. NY.
Also by Barbara Rosenthal is the revised second edition of Introduction to the (Clues to Myself, Sensations, Homo Futurus) Trilogy, which includes words and photographs from 1960 to the present. This "introduction" is a continued introspective rethinking of Rosenthal's doing the books in the first place. Dealing with personality and art, with the cycle of life, death and spiritual resurrection, this brief Introduction leads Rosenthal to explain how she did Homo Futurus from an accumulation of materials kept in her private copy of an edition of 200 blank books which she published in 1984 under that name, which started a whole series of circulating books, some ending to form the 1986 edition, a collective journal. Perhaps this is "an advertisement for herself", but I think this continual rethinking of "why do this book" allows those who have collected the books or those who will do so to understand and appreciate this photographer and thinking artist's oeuvre. Available from Printed Matter and other bookshops.
Ara Rose Parker, Photo-Communique (1986)<
TORONTO, ONTARIO, SUMMER, 1986
"Sensations by Barbara Rosenthal "
By ARA ROSE PARKER
Sensations, Barbara Rosenthal, Visual Studies Workshop Press, Rochester, New York, 1984; 48pp.; softcover.
"I have hundreds of self-portraits. Who is this person I call my 'self?' And why the hell am I so concerned about her?" With this challenge, the narrative voice poses the book's struggle with questions of identity, experience, growth and environment. But Rosenthal goes beyond the seductive pull of solipsistic theatre: in the interplay between text and photograph, she constructs an elaborate study of self in relation to others, seen through the filmy complexity of dream and memory.
The photos themselves are enigmatic snippets, full of shadows, blurred lines, dark places; the accompanying texts tell stories which, paradoxically, both
locate the images in the context of the narrator's persona and open them up to varied cultural associations. Although this opposition is itself played with in the book's emphasis on disorientation and obstruction, Sensations is about growth, moments of revelation; the barriers poised between text and photo are finally translated into triumph.
Pittsburgh, PA, Winter, 1985
Sensations by Barbara Rosenthal (A70). Visual Studies Workshop Press, 1984.
The title page of this slender book of comment and photographs, notes that ���This is an artist's book. All photography, writing, editing, structure, graphic design, layout, typography, typesetting, dummys, mechanicals�Ķis by the artist-author." Rosenthal describes the work "as a kind of odyssey: a central character reflects, experiences, dreams and matures. Each photograph and story places her in a new environment or situation, a theater for the release of acute sensations which serve as catalysts for insight, revelation and epiphany."
Some of these reflections are very sensitive and intimate, describing a wide range of experiences that the narrator is still trying to understand. The language is blunt with words that don't appear in Good Housekeeping. Copies can be ordered from Printed Matter, NYC.
Artists' Books: A Critical Anthology and Sourcebook (1985)
ARTISTS' BOOKS: A CRITICAL ANTHOLOGY AND SOURCEBOOK
Edited by Joan Lyons
Peregrine Smith Books, Layton, Utah, 1985
Paragraphs from Chapter 8
"Words and Images: Artists' Books as Visual Literature"
By SHELLEY RICE
...There are numerous artists' books which, like [Linn] Undderhill's [memorial to her sister, Thirtyfive Years/One Week], depend on a dominant emotional and/or psychological climate to create links between pictures and texts. Two such works, very different from each other in form and content, are Jacki Apple's Trunk Pieces and Barbara Rosenthal's Clues to Myself.
In Trunk Pieces, Apple uses pictures as springboarsds to memory, much as Proust used the madeleine in Swann's Way. In Clues to Myself, on the other hand, Rosenthal uses photographs in a dreamlike, associative way. This autobiographic journal of black and white photographs and texts, dealing primarily with the internal life of the artist, dispenses completely with unified narratives and direct word/picture relationships. The pictures are evocative visions of mundane objects and vistas: roads, dolls, houses, trucks, dogs, trees. The fragmented texts are diary entries, musings, quotes, dream transcriptions, memories and stories that are related only indirectly -- through mood or suggestion -- to each other and to the photographs. Read together, these highly personal images and texts illuminate one artist's subjective world.
While Apple and Rosenthal use mood and emotional climate to hold together words and pictures, Richad Nonas and Lawrence Weiner count on more conceptual devices to unify seemingly unrelated images and texts....
George Myers, Jr., Introduction to Modern Times
INTRODUCTION TO MODERN TIMES
LUNCHROOM PRESS, EAST LANSING, MI, 1982
Paragraphs from Chapter 12
"Cretean Bull Dancers: Five Women (Barbara Rosenthal, Linda Montano, Carolee Schneeman, Terry Kennedy and Irene Siegel)"
By GEORGE MYERS, JR.
Art is criticism. In The Mirror and the Lamp, M.H. Abrams suggests that there are four basic approaches to literary criticism: the mimetic, the pragmatic, the expressive and the objective. The mimetic describes the relationship of the work to the world in which the work was conceived; the pragmatic, with the workings of the creation on its audience; the expressive, studying the relationship of the work to the writer or artist; and finally, the objective approach -- non-referential and without regard to the world in which the art was created, its effects or relationship to its author. For five artists who happen to be women, the subject is breaking out. Their approach is primarily a mimetic one, natural for these five women, because their subject has been conceived and yet prevented by the world in which they themselves were conceived. "All my work is but a reflection," one [Barbara Rosenthal] quotes Salvador Dali, "of my total cosmogony."
Some cosmogonies may be rejected. Some confuse and reduce the restrictions between art and life, especially the case of-Linda Montano�Ķ.
Barbara Rosenthal and Irene Siegel have chosen the book -- traditionally small flat volumes in which pages are filled from top to bottom in type -- as their field of battle. Their books, Clues to Myself and 70 Instructions on How to Make Certain Drawings, respectively, are products of that unique book art production shop -- the Visual Studies Workshop Press in Rochester, New York. Since 1972 the workshop press has been active in producing artists' books. As book concepts go, VSW Press books often represent the vanguard of what's new and important between covers. Usually, they fall into the general category of "Not Commercially Feasible/Important Labors of Love." Book art -- that odd and fractured compilation of photography, typefaces, collage and surrealist pastiche -- is what Rosenthal's and Siegel's texts are all about.
Rosenthal's "give the subconscious a camera" comment, from Clues to Myself, is an accurate description of what she does with "something forgotten, something once clear but now fading, once true and important but now questionable." Chunks of her life and imagination (including the imaginations of several of her artist-heroes) are thrown together in a neo-narrative and curiously threaded together photo album. Like Montano, Rosenthal has juggled art with life and come up with a kind of action art handbook. To add strength, she quotes Claes Oldenburg: "I have got love all mixed up with art. I have got my sentiments for the world all mixed up with art. I am a disaster as an artist because I can't leave the world alone."
Her work is more affective than mimetic, adding to the difficulty in the decoding of pictures and text about trees, fathers, Henry Miller quotes and STP gas treatment. The paradox is to share the ultimately private. The common ground is rocky, treacherous even, but there exists a possibility of identification. The quality of similarity -- between the book's "life" and life as we know it -- is part unconscious, part archetypal, and partly in its use of a grammatical structure. For all its oddness, hers is a scrapbook in which all can participate, all have participated.
Daring, courageous, not locked in with any previously existing dogma, these women use texts as a field of action, just as their counterpart performance artists play out their life/art on a three dimensional stage. These women either choose to meet reality head-on or to skirt it completely, creating devices for the abolition of a particular reality. Sparks fly at the intersection.
Performance artist Carolee Schneemann was one who was there near the beginning -- one who made crossroads possible. Originally a painter, she was the first visual artist to work with the Judson Dance Theater, where she pioneered "body art��� and developed her own performance vehicle, Kinetic Theater. She did to the stage what Siegel and Rosenthal do now to the page, that is, to provide layer upon layer of textural and imagistic material.
"Rosenthal's life study easily may be compared to Donna Henes' Dressing Our Wounds in Warm Clothes. Henes, primarily a performance or happening artist, documented an intensely personal event at Manhattan Psychiatric Center on Wards Island in New York. The artist collected meaningful items of clothing from the public, tore them into strips and ritually tied knots around Ward Island trees. On an external level, Rosenthal's knot of photographs and paragraphs appear similarly unattached to a meaning that we, as outsiders, can comprehend. Henes, to continue, spent her nights in a small cell at the center, keeping a journal with her and noting encounters with patients and doctors. The whole manuscript creates a web of connection.
Shelley Rice, Franklin Furnace Flue (1982)
FRANKLIN FURNACE FLUE
"CLUES TO MYSELF Barbara Rosenthal"
By SHELLEY RICE
"Things have been trapped in my mind: memories, ideas, fragments of sounds and smells, names of people, places, animals, books and music and pictures, events, phrases, facts..." -��� from the author's introduction. A book of journal excerpts, stories, quotations, and photographs freely blended together to serve as a wellspring for the intellect and the emotions. 1981. 48 pages. Black and white illustrations throughout. sb.
Clues to Myself by Barbara Rosenthal is a play between photography and diary entries, between the conscious and the subconscious, an artist sharing her journal with us in order that we be changed by those experiences of hers, to be affected by them, to be different after reading and seeing them. The play of typography on the page, the shifting of the photograph so it is on a tilt -��� or are the words on a tilt? Or is it life on a tilt?
"Sometimes things make no sense whatsoever and these are the things that are most perfect." Illustrated by Jean Harlow woman hooks. Dream sequences, quotes from famous authors, shifts in meaning, shifts in page format, shifts in photograph size. A haunting book, one that is shared with the reader on a very intimate basis -��� a one-to-one experience which will shift with the emotional stance and psychological situation of the reader. 48 pages, 24 photos, available throughout New York City and at artists' bookshops throughout the U.S.
Ara Rose Parker, Photo-Communique (1981)
TORONTO, ONTARIO, SUMMER, 1981
Clues to Myself by Barbara Rosenthal
By ARA ROSE PARKER
Clues to Myself, Barbara Rosenthal; Visual Studies Workshop Press, 31 Prince Street, Rochester. N.Y. 14607. distributed by Printed Matter, NYC, 47 pp. 1981.
"All my work is but a reflection, one of the innumerable reflections of what I accomplish, write and think. All my painting is but a small fragment of my total cosmogony." Salvador Dali.
So begins Barbara Rosenthal's book, ���Clues lo Myself,��� a collection of photographic and journalistic reflections about her feelings, experiences, relationships and dreams. The book is punctuated with quotes by individuals such as Dali, R.D. Laing and Henry Miller which ring out with the assurance of authority amidst Rosenthal's own philosophies of understanding, narrative sketches, words and catchy turns of phrase.
The lexis and images are not so much illustrations of one another, nor descriptions of each one's intent, but more specifically evi-dence of the artist's questioning of structures, and contexts for self-understand-ing. Barbara Rosenthal in her "Introduction" states that it is her hope that with this collection of fragments from her world, the viewer, in reading the book, finds her/his insights compatible with Rosenthal's based on her assertion that "the purpose of art is to extend into us and evoke personal insight and emotion, and that although I am telling you what I see and think, you are looking at my work not so much to understand my life as to understand your own."
There is a simplicity about this artist's book which both frustrates and seduces. Frustration because of the nature of Rosenthal's conclusions which are inherent in the way her questions are constructed; questions which represent important issues about reality and perception. The presentation of her lexis and images carries with it the authority of own experience, elements juxtaposed in such a way that any questions asked are precluded by assumptions about the ambiguous nature of answers. In this way, much of what is read is frus-trated by the obvious. The seductive character at of the issues behind these questions, pointing towards the "annihilating" edge between reali-ties and fantasies, narrative structures and documents of witness, allow for an accessibility and familiarity, a mutual recognition between reader and artist around the need to make public the private.
At times, Clues to Myself reminds one of the role of the class reader, albeit a sophisticated textbook for searching artists, carrying with it the dynamics of a lesson to be learned. One's anxiety in reading through the rhetoric of these images and text is in anticipation of comprehension questions that might well appear at the end, as in those class readers of childhood education. The page facing a photograph of a lone tree in a field reads as follows: "Here is a tree." "But it is only black and white.��� "Then it must be a dream of a tree." "Maybe, but maybe not." "What else could it be if it's not a dream?" "A photograph." The actual photograph of the tree is left on its own, made part of the context of the sentiments of this writing by their juxtaposition, but alluding to little else. In contrast, John Berger, in About Looking has an interesting chapter about the Field which is wonderfully open-ended in its suggestive im-agery, in its effort to design similar constructs for perception. This dialogue about the black and white tree is set up as a sort of parable for thorough consump-tion; the clever interchange of definitions seduces the intellect but docs not lend insight into the issue of the photographic reality.
Journal entries arc frequently scrutinized by their authors for tones of contrivance, fearing the possibility that the personal can be nothing more than just personal, and thereby not valid for others. Therein lies the artist's dilemma. Rosenthal, however, fails to transcend the personal in her self-consciousness by not answering to the po-tentially suggestive nature of her thoughts, leaving them simply as conclusions unto themselves. The stories, narratives, words and images in this book arc tied together in no overall particular order. They are supposedly justified in their arrangement because they represent in totality the artist's conceptual constructs; she alone can be the author of these presentations and owner of these associa-tions between
image and text. They may perform this role of "clues" to herself but arc left as statements for the consideration of the reader. Rosenthal may be correct in her assertion that we share in a collective of concepts; however, this function of compatibility between artists and audience holds true only insofar as images and text are denied their specificity, their personality in isolation from (their) her contextual interpretations. Her own philosophy about the structures of these elements, words and photographs, and their ordering in terms of priorities as to emotional and intellectual appeal, are her own, and must be appreciated as such. One question that might be asked of Barbara Rosenthal is as to why it is so important to her, as she stated in the "Introduction", that the reader find her/himself in compatibility with the artist in the interpretation of imagemaking. The exchange between artists and public is as important and dynamic when there is controversy and not compatibility.
It is essential to add that the vulnerability of this presentation is welcomed as further evidence of the fragility of conclusions of this nature. It reaffirms the contention that the desire to discover contexts and structures for information and experiences is an important endeavor. The risks which are taken by those who afford themselves the opinion to extend their perspectives necessitates the evidence ��� photographic, literary and other-wise, to attest to this pursuit. Barbara Rosenthal writes on her last page, what reads as a conclusion to her collection of insights, "I wished to remain invisible. I didn't want to seem pretentious," which is then followed by a photograph of a person diving into a pool taken from the back. The photographic "plunge" forward negates the fear of exposure in the preceding text and one is left to hope that this image rings out in its intent more forcefully than the fearful constraints of self-consciousness.
FULL TEXT OF CONCEPTUAL PHOTOGRAPHY ARTICLES: