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.