Allan Sekula’s “Fish Story”

February’s Reading: “Fish Story” by Allan Sekula
Wednesday February 29 2012
VIVO Media Arts (1965 Main Street), Vancouver BC
7pm Salon Free
Facilitated by Andrew Witt

American artist and writer Allan Sekula spent seven years photographing harbors and port cities around the world. Starting out in Los Angeles and San Diego, he traveled as far as Korea, Scotland, and Poland, photographing the prosperity, poverty, and political powers that continue to play out in and between major port cities across the world. In fix his lens on the shipping industry, Sekula documents concrete manifestations of Neoliberal capital flow—providing an opportunity to pin down an object that is all too often ethereal in nature. Fish Story (1995) is the result of these researches. It exists as a book with more than 900 color photographs, interspersed with meandering aphorisms about the material history of shipping and the contemporary working conditions of the people to whom it is bound—on land and at sea. This work has also been mounted as an exhibition, and its ‘iteration’ as an object is not entirely fixed. We will remount a reading of Sekula’s writing from the book, accompanied by some of its attendant images, as a group with a mind to honour this imperative to experiment.

“Allan Sekula is one of the most thoughtful historians, critics and practitioners of photography working today. For more than three decades his images and writings have shifted the terms on which the medium is understood and has influenced a generation of artists and scholars. Whether articulating a semiotics of the photograph in his classic study Photography against the Grain: Essays and Photoworks 1973–1983 (1984) or investigating maritime space in the books and exhibitions comprising Fish Story (2002), Sekula is always in motion. His extensive travels to many of the world’s seaports are matched only by his enlightening journeys across history, politics and aesthetics that through their consummate intelligence transform and connect domains usually considered separate. Thus it is only fitting that in recent years Sekula has begun to make moving images alongside his still photographs, producing an investigation of the Tokyo fish market Tsukiji (2001) and The Lottery of the Sea, a densely woven work-in-progress on globalization and its political and ecological discontents. The courage and outspokenness of his interventions lend them an integrity that recalls the work of Hans Haacke and Krzysztof Wodiczko.” (Edward Dimendberg)

This salon is facilitated by Andrew Witt, who writes for the Mainlander  and is a collaborator with Coupe L’état. This salon extends informally out of the Wednesday Night School project, which has been running through the winter via the Audain Gallery.

No Reading After the Internet is a monthly opportunity to gather and read a text aloud in hopes that it might provoke theoretical illumination on particular art works, or the broader scape within which such work exists. This program departs from Cineworks’ Thought on Film series, conceived by Cheyanne Turions. Whilst still very interested in cinema, the focus of this incarnation is softened to accommodate the more broad (and ever expanding) scope of media art.

The idea of a reading group isn’t new. No Reading nonetheless poses itself as an experimental learning and discussion space. Simply put, we are suspicious of our own reading abilities, and the extent to which our readings are conversant with one another. No Reading means to offer a slow space within which to retrace oursteps in the hopes of discovering individual and collective ways through the realms of language and interpretation. The strategieswe have at our disposal are twofold: through the yoking of our discussion to a text; and inducing conversation, where possible, between text and specific, local, contemporaneous art discussions and happenings.

Participation in No Reading After the Internet is free and open to everyone, regardless of his or her familiarity with a text or its author. Texts will be handed out at the gathering. No pre-reading or research is required. Those who wish to access the text in advance can find it at VIVO’s website.


Thomas Bernhard’s “The Voice Imitator: 104 Stories” as selected by Barbara Sternberg

Thomas Bernhard’s The Voice Imitator: 104 Stories as selected by Barbara Sternberg

Wednesday, 22 February 2012
LIFT (1137 Dupont Street)
7 PM

Barbara Sternberg in attendance

In conjunction with Pleasure Dome’s world premiere presentation of Barbara Sternberg’s in the nature of things (2011) a selection of excerpts from Thomas Bernhard’s The Voice Imitator: 104 Stories have been selected by Sternberg to be read aloud and discussed by participants.

The central image of in the nature of things is the Forest–sometimes fearful, sometimes a refuge, always mysterious–and the multiple associations and myths embedded in it. But, unexpected moments, intensified fragments, catch us unawares: the present confronts us. in the nature of things continues Sternberg’s examination of the oppositions played out dialectically and enmeshed in our experience of living: culture/nature, experience/representation, belonging/destroying, communal/individual, innocence/danger, young/old, living/dying. This is an autumnal film–twilight–a film of old age. Just as the Forest is a transitional space, so Old Age is a transitional time.

Thomas Bernhard’s The Voice Imitator is a darkly comic work. A series of parable-like anecdotes—some drawn from newspaper reports, some from conversation, some from hearsay—this satire is both subtle and acerbic. What initially appear to be quaint little stories inevitably indict the sterility and callousness of modern life, not just in urban centers but everywhere.

Participants are encouraged to attend Pleasure Dome’s screening of in the nature of things on Saturday, 18 February 2012, at 4pm at Jackman Hall (317 Dundas Street West).

Please note that the film will not be screened at the salon.

Thomas Bernhard (1931-89) was an Austrian novelist, playwright and poet. Bernhard, whose body of work has been called “the most significant literary achievement since World War II,” is widely considered to be one of the most important German-speaking authors of the postwar era.

Toronto filmmaker Barbara Sternberg has been making films since the mid-seventies. Her films have been screened widely across Canada as well as internationally at the Pompidou Centre in Paris, Kino Arsenal in Berlin, The Museum of Modern Art and Millennium Workshop in New York, and the Ontario Cinematheque, Toronto. Her work is in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario and the National Gallery of Canada. She has been a visiting artist at a number of Canadian universities and galleries including the University of Guelph, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Dunlop Art Gallery, as well as the Universite d’Avignon, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2011, Sternberg was made a Laureate of the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts.

No Reading After the Internet (Toronto) is supported by the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto. Special thanks to Pleasure Dome for their support of this salon.

Image credit: Barbara Sternberg, in the nature of things, 16mm, 2011.