Scholarship in Favour of Ms Olimpia Ferrari at the International Center of Photography, New York

Project location: United States, New York
Project start date: August 2009 - Project end date: August 2011
Project number: 2009-16
Beneficiary: International Center of Photography

Final Activity Report - December 2010

In the second Semester 2010 Olimpia attended the following classes:

1) Curatorial Strategies: The Object and the Exhibition in Modern and Contemporary Art- Carol Squiers

In this topical seminar, students focused on theoretical and critical issues in the history of photography. Working with ICP curatorial staff, students engaged in research, writing, and curatorial activities. Students' own writing charted the development of their ideas about photography in relation to the work of other photographers. A written thesis, which served as an anthology of two years of critical course work and professional practice, was required for graduation.

Olimpia Ferrari
Review of the show "The Mexican Suitcase" - International Center of Photography
Project 2, Fall 2010

The overall color of the show reminds me how photographic paper fades and turns yellow over time because of the sunlight. I think it is a good choice because of the parallelism I made with the subsequent prints and the sign time left on their surface.
I am a little perplex with the word "rediscovered" on the title of the show; I think is a word to effect the audience; "regain" or "recover" could be more suitable.
I enjoyed the welcoming role of the "suitcase" reproduction very big on the first wall. It is smart and very considerate and makes the viewer involved on the process behind the show: the act of opening the boxes. Showing the detail of the ruined corners and the fact that it was such logic and simple object made of cardboard eliminate from the beginning the risk of being pretentious or distant. One funny thing is that before noticing all this my first sensation was of being observed; the rolled negatives looked like lenses, many cameras where pointing and watching. Walking inside the show I was distracted and disturbed by the sound of the video projection " The Rehearsal for War" 1937, the music was a little too loud and too overwhelming; instead of dragging me into the show it brought me home in front of the television watching Istituto Luce (historical documentary) war documentaries. Whereas Cynthia Young wall text was very clear and touched all the important point the show wants to address, like " the fear of a rising tide of fascism across Europe" and "Many leftist intellectuals and artists internationally - including Capa, Chim and Taro- were committed to the antifascist struggle". The only thing that disturbed me about that text was how the paint used for the characters reflected the spot light in front of it.
I moved to the sidewall and I noticed how linear was the installation and all the sections it was divided in, this narrows the communication and interplay of the show because it is fragmented in compartments related to the historical event happening into the photographs.
Having said that incredibly interesting was the display of the prints on the wall and how the magazines contextualized those images; it brought me into the decision making process of the editor and what the magazine wanted to communicate. To make an example Chim's " Young woman nursing a baby during Land reform meeting near Badajoz" - published in the magazine Regards in 1936 and in the Madrid cover in 1937 as part of a montage - addresses the problem of how Chim intended the picture to live and how it really did in the magazine the image was shoot for. For me it looked like Regards and Madrid published that image to show danger and fear whereas Chim's sensibility and humanity reveals faith and hope. I could pair this image with the one (a little later) of the two soldiers carrying a crucifix (from Protection of the arts Madrid and environs 1936) because of the religious references and the light Chim uses. I particularly enjoyed the grouping Protection of the arts Madrid and environs 1936 it is one voice coming from that chorus of leftist intellectuals and artists present at the time. In the Regards (November 26 1936) article right below the images the French poet and journalist Anatole France addresses how he understands human sufferance because he feels it, how fascism and tsarism are part of the same European evil and how "hour own" friend Chim is documenting the killing of art and culture by Fascism. From here I can exactly extrapolate one of the recurrent themes of the show (witch also the assistant curator pointed out in the introductory wall): How intense, correlated and important was the intervention of Artists and Intellectuals from all over the world in the Spanish cause. It begins here and come back during all the show, with the letter from poet Arturo Serrano, the Alliance of Antifascist and Intellectuals for the Defense of Culture in Madrid to a colleague in Valencia 1937 with the images of General Pavol Lukacs Funeral and those where Capa and a group of American and British journalists, including Ernest Hemingway visited General Enrique Lister during the Battle of Rio Segre (November 1938) and with the footage of With the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain filmed by Capa and directed by Henry Cartier-Bresson and Herbert Kline.
The second theme I could individuate almost at the beginning was the interest on showing the everyday life not only of soldiers but also of civilians. Here the intentions of the photographers (Chim more than anyone) to shift the focus from the masses to the single, I think this was also a conscious decision against fascist totalitarism. I could draw this line from Chim photographs of the Refugees on Montjuich (November 1936) to the last pictures Taro took before dying published in Ce soir (August 10 1937), in her telegram she wrote she needed film, chocolate and a lamp. However the first images that communicated me this idea where the big reproduction of the contact sheets on the second room front wall: Chim photographs of Faces from Asturia, Basque fishermen after having captured the German ship S.S. Palos, filled with supplies for Franco's army. The last theme witch I think is the most important of all is the role of Photography - Capa, Chim and Taro Photography about the Spanish Civil War - on recording, transmitting and spreading information then and history now. The best example is the Letter from Juan Vicens in Paris to Manuel Sanchez Arcas at the Office of Propaganda in Barcelona (October 7, 1938) where Juan Vicens says that "Thanks to Capa only that at the end of 1936 we were able to start any graphic propaganda work there".
After having looked to the show I sat down and looked throughout the first catalogue and I noticed how better I could see the images and feel their presence: Capa image of "Two men reading newspaper after capture of Turel" caught my attention cause I noticed very strongly the word "Killer" on both newspapers.
Probably a book is the best way for this show to live, maybe the fact that I am use to experience history this way could be a reason for it but I felt the following and correlation between events with much more intimacy and flow. Also viewing the magazines in a book where is possible to touch them made me forget it was a reproduction and not the actual magazine, it was a more direct experience. Coming back to Chim image of the two soldiers carrying a crucifix (from Protection of the arts Madrid and environs 1936) in the book it was bigger and followed by a funeral, I thought that kind of connection between the images was very interesting and missing in the show where the contact sheets where a little too many and definitely too small.

2) Professional Practice: Joshua Lutz.

3) Graduate Seminar: Nayland Blake - Justine Kurland- Bill Jacobson
This seminar explored the range of possibilities for project work through individual critiques.
Each week both first and second year students met to constructively critique one student's work.

4) Independent Project: Nina Katchadourian
This was class on sound, how we perceive it and how it can be a piece or part of a piece.

5) Practice Strategies: Nancy Davenport

think global, act local
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