Photobooks by white male photographers provide the material for Justine Kurland’s new, radical syndication

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The photographer reappropriated 150 titles from her photobook collection, creating collages confronting the continued prominence of white men in the photo world

“His responses are entirely visceral, not cerebral; his intelligence is a mere device in the services of their drives and needs; he could be incapable of mental passion, mental interaction; he can’t connect with anything other than his own physical sensations. ” So writes Valerie Solanas in the launch of her SCUM (Society For Cutting Up Guys ) Manifesto , which was first published within 1968 and received common criticism. An expression of feminine outrage towards patriarchal misuse and women’s underrepresentation within the arts, the text remains important, especially among feminist creative circles. It is also the foundational inspiration behind Justine Kurland’s new photobook, SCUMB Manifesto , published by MACK. Playing on Solanas’ initial title, Kurland offers a new interpretation: Society For Slicing Up Men’s Books .

Kurland’s lively red cover exudes the original rage of Solanas with alarmingly contrasting yellow textual content, presenting her own manifesto focused towards the men who dominate the photo world, establishing the tone for her artwork in the pages beyond. “YOUR TIME IS OVER OFFICER HISTORIAN, ” she writes. “I CALL FOR THE END OF THE IMAGE REPRESENTATION OF THE MALE CANON, ITS DADDY WORSHIP AS WELL AS ITS MONOPOLY ON MEANING AND VALUE. ” The collages within comprise spliced plus diced reconfigurations of numerous images by straight white men, which Kurland purged from her own collection of photobooks, liberating it from a demographic that has dominated the cannon since photography’s invention.

Justine Kurland, ‘New York in Color, 2021’, from
SCUMB Manifesto (MACK, 2022). Courtesy of the artist and MACK.

Kurland’s sequencing in SCUMB Manifesto guides each viewer on a chaotic and humourous journey: a visual parallel to Solanas’ writing. The styles excavated by Kurland through her deaccessioned photobooks touch on everything from played-out obsessions with the female body, towards the anonymisation of women, to repetitive landscapes. Merging these details in to overstimulating mosaics, Kurland reframes “seminal” subject matter into some thing far more conceptually intricate plus alarming.  

In addition to Kurland’s reinterpretations, SCUMB Manifesto consists of numerous texts. These include an experimental essay by poet and artist Renee Gladman; a historical contextualisation associated with Kurland’s work within a subversive feminist collage by Marina Chao, and a piece simply by academic Catherine Lord, whom poetically addresses the patriarchal whiteness that defines the particular art world. Poet and playwright Ariana Reines adds a long-form essay on her experience with Solanas’ original textual content and how this informs the girl interpretation of Kurland’s work today. These contributions raise Kurland’s collages, transcending the girl frantic cutting and damage into a choreographed rage contributed by many.

At the end of the guide, after the reader experiences numerous full-spread visuals and interactive gate-folds, the work closes having an essay by Kurland himself, who addresses the designs popularly attributed to Solanas: queerness, Warhol, madness, and violence —again enacting a process associated with reinterpretation. “The manifesto called for an end to men, and the power that seeks dominance, superiority, exploitation and death, as well as the creation of a superior, all-female society, ” Kurland states of Solanas’ original textual content. “I have tried to visualize this society in my photographs. ”

Cat Lachowskyj

Cat Lachowskyj is a freelance writer, editor plus researcher based in London. Just before pursuing a career in writing, the girl trained as an archivist within Toronto, developing research on colonial photography albums at the Archive of Modern Conflict. She has completed residencies and fellowships at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Ryerson Image Center and the Rijksmuseum, and her current research interests involve psychoanalytical approaches to photography and archives. Cat’s writing offers appeared in many publications including Unseen Magazine, The British Journal of Photography, Polyurethane foam Magazine and American Suburb X, and she has kept editing roles at both Unseen Magazine and LensCulture.

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