The ethics of representation have never been more important, or more closely scrutinised. Whose stories can we tell, how and why? Are we aware of the history that comes with the material? How can museums – and by extension, all public platforms, whether cultural, political or social – offer diverse and authentic projects? Galleries all over the world are now making widespread structural changes and institutional pledges, owing to the “asymmetries of power” that have governed over the years. Constellations: Photographs in Dialogue explores how additions to a collection “expand, deepen and complicate the stories a museum can tell.” Across six galleries, the exhibition creates moments of “dialogue, resonance and tension”, with four curators choosing brand new acquisitions as a point of departure. Featured names include Poklong Anading, Daisuke Yokota, Zanele Muholi and Imogen Cunningham, amongst others.
Wendy Red Star’s stand-out pieces challenge mainstream representations of Native American peoples, having photographed Crow culture on her own terms for many years. The Four Seasons series uses visual bathos to undermine the romantic idealisations of Native Americans being “one with nature.” Cardboard cut-out animals and Astroturf reference commercially produced prints from the 1970s. In a 2016 interview with Aperture, Star notes: “The USA was founded on the eradication of Native people. We were also, paradoxically, used for tourism to pro- mote the expansion of the west. For some reason, Native people are represented as eradicated. We are these mythical creatures.”
Constellations is at SFMOMA, San Francisco | Until 21 August
1. Wendy Red Star, Spring, from the series Four Seasons, 2006, printed 2017; collection SFMOMA, gift of Loren G. Lipson, M.D.; © Wendy Red Star
2.Wendy Red Star, Fall, from the series Four Seasons, 2006, printed 2017; collection SFMOMA, gift of Loren G. Lipson, M.D.; © Wendy Red Star