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Adam Kleinman on half-truths and the work of Ivan Argote


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Ivan Argote, Reddish Blue Memories, 2014

In Art-Agenda, Adam Kleinman writes about the molding of reality into semi-truths and myths at the hands of political leaders, and how this is exemplified by Ivan Argote’s recent exhibition at D+T Project Gallery in Brussels. (If this rings familiar, you may remember our recent thread about Adam Curtis’s latest film on Putin advisor Vladimir Surkov.)

Kleinman writes about Argote’s fascination with the color purple, and it’s place in the history of Kodak:

According to the work, the “red scare and stuff” led Kodak to question how its Kodachrome stock tended to fade to red. Fearing that this hue might “color” political affect, the company transitioned to the new Ektachrome process, which faded to an ideologically neutral blue instead. As a conjecture, Argote suggests that his purple image must have been developed in the midst of this change and as such, the color shifted neither to red nor blue, but somewhere in between. This middle ground is then used as a kind of metonym for the dialectical clash between the so-called first-world “blues” and second-world “reds”; however, this is secondary to the artist’s ultimate point: that memory can be mediated by black-box mechanics that govern how a device can represent, and moreover, that we should watch out for such snares. It’s a nice story, and a prescient warning considering the hermeneutics and growing hegemony of digital and other technologies today; however, the artist discloses that he cannot find any evidence of Kodak’s kowtowing to the American Cold War propaganda machine. The reason? Well, it’s most likely false. The quirky thing about this exhibition is that Argote obfuscates an actual history that has just as much to do with capitalism, technology, and identity politics, in favor of his own fantasy.