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Sharjah Biennial 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber Ocula Report Sharjah Biennial 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber 15 Mar 2019 : Stephanie Bailey for Ocula

In Meiro Koizumi's three-channel video installation, The Angels of Testimony (2019), the central frame features an interview with Hajime Kondo about his time as a solider of the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War. The conversation centres on war crimes perpetrated in China, including the beheading of Chinese prisoners for...

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Diana Campbell Betancourt Ocula Conversation Diana Campbell Betancourt

Diana Campbell Betancourt is a curator working predominantly across South and Southeast Asia. Since 2013 she has been the founding artistic director of the Samdani Art Foundation and chief curator of the Dhaka Art Summit in Dhaka, Bangladesh, a transnational art event that has grown in size and scale ever since its first edition in 2012. Backed by...

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Chinternet Ugly at Manchester’s Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art Ocula Report Chinternet Ugly at Manchester’s Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art 7 Mar 2019 : Mike Pinnington for Ocula

China, home to 802 million internet users, is subject to sophisticated online censorship. This shrouded state of affairs, unsurprisingly perhaps, serves to reinforce stereotypes around conformity elsewhere. Any realm, digital or otherwise, subject to such strict scrutiny must necessarily be bland and uncritical, right? I was mulling over such...

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For more than twenty years Joel-Peter Witkin has pursued his interest in spirituality and how it impacts the physical world. The artist creates surreal tableaux with which he seeks to dismantle our preconceived notions about sexuality and physical beauty. Void of all shyness, finding desire within the repugnant and sacred within the profane, Witkin approaches these complex issues by working with the people most often cast aside by society in an unapologetic presentation of deformity. He begins each image by sketching his ideas on paper and perfecting every detail before he picks up his camera. Once the scene is photographed, he spends hours in the darkroom, scratching and piercing his negatives, transforming them into pictures that look made rather than taken. From their conception to their completion as ornate constructions, his references to traditional art historical iconography serve as a backdrop to his subjects and as a foundation for his ideas.

Witkin and his twin brother—famous painter Jerome Witkin—were born in 1939 in Brooklyn, New York. The artist claims his vision and sensibility were instigated by a car accident he witnessed as a child in which a little girl was decapitated. He received a camera at the age of 15 after taking an introductory class in photography. After high school and jobs in New York colour labs, he joined the military and documented the Vietnam War. Witkin studied at the Cooper Union School of Art and Architecture, and received his B.A. in 1974. During this same period, Columbia University awarded him with a fellowship in poetry. He completed his studies at the University of New Mexico, where he earned his MA in 1976 and his MFA in 1981. Witkin is also a recipient of the Commandeur d'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de France. Bruce Silverstein organised a major exhibition of his work in 2008.

Joel Peter Witkin has been exhibited at the National Gallery of Canada; Bibliotèque Nationale de Paris, Guggenheim Bilbao; Moscow House of Photography; Museum of Contemporary Photography Chicago; Houston Center for Photography; ARCO Madrid; Israel Museum; Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea, Milan; and the Whitney Museum in New York among others. His work is included in numerous public and private collections worldwide including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Centre George Pompidou, Paris; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; George Eastman House, Rochester; Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Some of his most important published works are the monograph Joel-Peter Witkin (2007), Joel-Peter Witkin, Disciple & Master (2000), Joel-Peter Witkin, A Retrospective (1995), Harms Way (1994), Joel-Peter Witkin, Twelve Photographs in Gravure (1994), Gods of Earth and Heaven (1989), and Joel-Peter Witkin : Forty Photographs (1985). The artist currently lives and works in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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Featured Artworks

Story from a Book by Joel-Peter Witkin contemporary artwork Joel-Peter WitkinStory from a Book, 1999 Toned silver gelatin print
Gary Tatintsian Gallery
Woman Once a Bird by Joel-Peter Witkin contemporary artwork Joel-Peter WitkinWoman Once a Bird, 1990 Gelatin silver print
20 x 16 inches
Bruce Silverstein

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