Artist Blog

Every week an artist whose single image was published by Der Greif is given a platform in which to blog about contemporary photography.

Altered States

Dec 14, 2020 - Evan Hume

The poor image is a copy in motion. Its quality is bad, its resolution substandard. As it accelerates, it deteriorates. It is a ghost of an image, a preview, a thumbnail, an errant idea, an itinerant image distributed for free, squeezed through slow digital connections, compressed, reproduced, ripped, remixed, as well as copied and pasted into other channels of distribution.

– Hito Steyerl, In Defense of the Poor Image

My continuing search for photographs from government archives that have been transformed over time through reproduction brought me to the FBI’s National Stolen Art File, a database of artworks reported as stolen. Some information regarding artist, title, period, medium, and measurements is given for most of the artworks listed. However, the photographic documentation for many of the artworks exhibit varying degrees of obfuscation and legibility due to a combination of technical errors and digital compression. A distorted photograph in the National Stolen Art File is often the only publicly available visual documentation for an artwork listed in the database, existing in a strange space between cultural artifact and abstract data.

I printed the digital images collected from the database at the approximate size of the original artworks, acting as pixilated placeholders that give form to the digital mediation, circulation, and consumption of art. The pictures move further away from their points of origin, individually taking on new meanings and associations. In these altered states, the images embody the contradictions of representation and abstraction, presence and absence.