The Image at Large : Getting the measure of deaccessioned slides in metapictorial art practice

Activity: External talk or presentationOral presentation


Over the last decade or so, former slide libraries serving art history departments in higher education institutions across Europe and North America have been undertaking collection management exercises on their 35mm pedagogical slides, now viewed as obsolete with the coming of commercial digital image collections and digital display mechanisms. Discussions about reducing or disposing of collections were prompted by a dramatic reduction in usage by the art historians whose needs the collections once served; vexed institutional questions about what to do with vast collections show the scale of the problem. After enormities have been accumulated but institutions and their users no longer want them, where should they go? The answer has been, in many cases, to artists.

This presentation explores what I describe as the metapictorial practice of artists who work with deaccessioned slide collections, from Philipp Goldbach, who used the 200,000 deaccessioned slides from the Cologne Institute of Art History to create radical new revisions of classification systems, to Canadian artists Susan Dobson and Annie MacDonell ,who each use unwanted slide collections to produce reflexive photography about photography and art about art history. I argue that these works provide valuable perspectives about the single image and its massed contexts that speak to contemporary anxieties about photographic scale. Art from slide collections moves from micro to macro view in a microscoping-telescoping oscillation, moving across piles, stacks, grids and multiple filing cabinets to single views of tiny details writ large. Drawing on theoretical ideas about the mise en abyme from Lucien Dällenbach, Craig Owens and W. J. T. Mitchell, I argue that artworks utilizing slide collections can illuminate the warp and weft of photographic meaning; the individual element in the mass becomes a pictorial device to understand the meaning of the whole.
Period15 Oct 202017 Oct 2020
Event titleUniversities Art Association of Canada 2020 conference
Event typeConference
LocationVancouver, CanadaShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational