Monday, August 14, 2006

Paul Shambroom | Museum of Contemporary Photography

Paul Shambroom | The Museum of Contemporary Photography | Columbia College
Originally posted on Panel-House: October 2003

If you want exploitation for exploitation's sake visit the Alec Soth photo’s on the second and third floor of the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College. If you want exploitation for libidinal sake visit the the registrar’s office on the fifth floor in the same building. For a meditation on decorum’s sake please visit the exploitation on view in the main gallery of the MCP. Here you will find Paul Shambroom’s large-format C-prints and inkjetted canvases conveniently accessible and offering a stunning study of bipolar civics.

Access is the key here. For over a decade Shambroom has been engaged with two conceptually “separate but equal” documentations. In Meetings the artist visits town hall meetings presented in compositions of full-frontal salon style portraits of those powers that be, namely that of the assemblymen council members. In Nuclear Weapons we are greeted by mostly womb shots of our governments arsenals attended to by the occasional anonymous worker/robot/soldier gingerly, almost lazily, keeping things ticking. An additional room on that first floor includes evidentiary detritus that serves to document the documentation that really should have been cordoned off in order to preserve aesthetic fruition. Nonetheless, it is illuminating.

Though firmly and obviously political in approach, the dissemination that results from taking in the exhibition is really rather sociologic. The second and third layers of discourse here reveal a voyeuristic tension - from confronting council members with out the guide of minutes and confronting various buttons, wires, shells and bunk beds without the guide of perspective. This is serious business here. Decisions are being made and not made yet the only proof we have is courtesy of a man who’s making it his business. How many of you have ever been to a city council meeting? How many of you have bothered trying to access a military base? Would you really want to do either? (You know you can, just ask).

By activating the anthropology of both these environments, a keen sense of damnation is felt. The composition of each work places the viewer in the social system forcing a decision. Run and hide? Laugh hysterically? Is this the beginning of Armageddon or just the last people on earth you would want making a decision for you? If only Angie Harrison, Barry Thomas (Mayor) or even Claudia Baker, the council members from Stockton, Utah (population 567), would turn their heads around (RIGHT NOW!) and look at the familiar symbol that's oddly been left on the Twomblyesque chalkboard behind them. Curious? Go take some minutes of your own.

Written by Britton Bertran


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