Hand over fist: a chronicle of Cold War photography

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Group Material’s Timeline: The Chronicle of US Invention in Latin and Central America (1984) at P.S.1’s Center for Contemporary Art explored the framing devices of installation art and photography in tandem, as a means of reconfiguring the distribution of the sensible at the height of the Cold War. In response to escalating crisis (including continuous Central Intelligence Agency operations being carried out in Nicaragua and El Salvador), this activist project employed postmodern strategies such as appropriation, pastiche and a resistance to conclusiveness in order to suggest provocative and unexpected dialogues between disparate artworks and artefacts across time and geopolitical difference. Artists ranging from Richard Prince and Barbara Kruger to John Heartfield, Tina Modotti and Arellano Bolivar, among others, come together as signs of political and aesthetic conflict, as networks of visual culture that complicate dominant narratives of spatial and temporal reality during the Cold War era. Closer analysis of such works reveals historical ruptures alongside continuities, relayed by official government policy, mass media and the art world more broadly. By excavating a long-standing history of conflict, Timeline addresses the stakes of the ownership of meaning itself in the mid-1980s, with implications regarding art production and politics for generations to come.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)182-194
Number of pages13
JournalVisual Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 4 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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