Ginevra Shay: The States Project: Maryland
I feel like I’ve met a lot of the Baltimore art community while milling around at the train station, on either end of the Penn Line from Baltimore to Washington DC. It makes sense, as so many of us try to get down there to see talks and shows. I met Ginevra Shay on the way to my very first evening lecture at the Hirschhorn Museum, and was happy to chat with another person who was relatively new to town. In the intervening years, I’ve been to countless exhibitions that she has had a hand in putting together and watched her become one of the major figures of our thriving art scene, including a key member involved in the revival of the Contemporary Museum, Baltimore. Despite those serious actions, it’s her annual conceptual cookie contest that is definitely highest on my Baltimore bucket list. It’s hard to resist an event that promotes itself as “When Cookies Stop Being Polite and Start Getting Real.” Somehow Ginevra still finds time to produce fascinating photographs, create excellent publications, and participate in numerous art fairs. I’m always excited to see what she is working on next, and it is a pleasure to share one of her most fascinating projects with Lenscratch readers.
Ginevra Shay is an artist and curator living and working in Baltimore, Maryland. She is the Artistic Director of The Contemporary Museum, and curator of Rose Arcade.
Ginevra’s work has been exhibited and published internationally. She recently participated in exhibitions at LVL3 (Chicago), Untitled Art Fair with Present Company (Miami). Other recent exhibitions include, Ballroom Gallery (Baltimore), Present Company (Brooklyn), Rock512Devil (Baltimore), The Finnish Museum of Photography (Finland), Notre Dame University (Maryland), John Hansard Gallery (United Kingdom), Galleri Vasli Souza (Sweden), and Flying Object (Mass). Her work and publications are in the libraries of Yale University Art Gallery Library, The International Center for Photography, Indie Photobook Library, Houston Center for Photography, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
The works in both Lesser Chains of Being and Raum Bilder stem from my long-standing skepticism regarding photography and its relationship to mass culture. Though I was trained in traditional darkroom methods, and having early on pursued direct, documentary, decisive-moment style image making, I became wary of the ease with which images could be used to manipulate society. I felt a need to rebuild my practice, tossing out anything I deemed inessential. To this end, I temporarily abandoned both the camera and the world external to the darkroom.
Early images from Lesser Chains of Being were as simple and direct of photographic experiences as I could articulate; they are the record of the choreography of my body engaging with the chemistry and space of the darkroom. Slowly, I began to re-incorporate the use of the camera in documenting the world, albeit in a different way. Fragments of architecture began to appear as grounds in some of these prints.
I had recently moved to Baltimore, and spent a couple of years grappling with the space, structure, and architecture of the city. Seeing the physically manifested history of the abuses and manipulations of power, I thought maybe here was a place to find a new approach in my camera-based practice.
While retaining my investment in the body, developed through the direct and immediate works of Lesser Chains, I wanted to convey a far less closed-off sense of the body; I needed to articulate the body in the world. This world, the space depicted in the Raum Bilders, would bring together my interest in architectural and virtual spaces, and my desire to use the shattered fragments of mass produced images to envision an alternative to the failed topic space of modernism.
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