Each day, more than three billion images are shared on social networks. The Supermarket of Images at Jeu de Paume, Paris, examines the production, publicisation and storage of these photographs. The show features 48 artists who explore how media saturation is affecting physical and digital space. It asks whether our globalised world will ever reach “the one hundred percent image space” – a concept envisaged in the 20th century by German philosopher Walter Benjamin (1892-1940). The Supermarket of Images indicates how our everyday lives are clouded by packed social media feeds and a desire to be seen amongst the pixelated noise.
What is the value of an image? Five sections including Stocks, Value and Exchanges divide the artworks within the show, illuminating viewers to the economics of a picture, or “iconomy.” 67 highlighted works examine how an image can embody a static moment in time whilst contributing to the history of visual culture. As curators Peter Szendy, Emmauel Alloa and Marta Ponsa state: “images of the economy always involve the economy of the image.”
For example, Ana Vitória Mussi (b. 1943) explores financial and cultural worth in the sculptural installation Por Um Fio (By a thread) (1997-2004), featured in the exhibition. A cascade of 22,000 negatives hangs from the ceiling. The mass of connected, wavy brown squares trace a history of analogue technology and photojournalism. The reels of images accompanied historic breaking news stories. Viewed in the 21st century, their original format now anonymises the narratives and subjects hidden within. The piece queries the destiny of archived imagery and the evolution of the media in a digital world.
The influence of technology, globalisation and mass production is also explored by Andreas Gursky (b. 1955), whose work is featured above. Amazon (2016) dissects the power of “iconomy” in the modern world. The vast photograph captures a small section of a multinational warehouse based in America. A series of multicoloured, horizontal lines merge into one flowing seascape. Millions of items wait, devoid of purpose or form, until they are moved onto the next section of the production line. The all-encompassing landscape highlights how space is made more vulnerable, yet valuable, by the fast pace of consumerism – and its resulting waste. The fluidity of the picture not only mimics the ongoing flow of digital feeds, but also the specks of plastic splattered within our oceans.
Discover the gallery’s online resources here.
Image: Andreas Gursky, Amazon, 2014. Courtesy of Jeu de Paume. © Andres Gursky.