Concepts And Approaches – Lecture Three

The Pictures Generation: Representation, Appropriation, Postmodernism.




Non-linear History


The Pictures Generation


Representation is the construction of an image through a desire to see something that may not be there. Photographs construct representations of reality. Photographs offer only a select amount of available information at their time of capture. Photographers make choices when they photograph. This speaks of a politics of seeing. Photographs exist between fact and fiction. They vacillate between reality and its representation.


Appropriation is the selection and presentation of objects or images from the real world, including already existing artworks, into a new work. We can link it back to at least the beginning of the twentieth century, with artists such as Picasso and Braque and their collage works using newspapers and other objects from popular culture.

We can trace these practices all the way up to the present day, through conceptual art and into the 70s and 80s with the formation of The Pictures Generation. In the same way as conceptual art must be understood by way of political events of the 1960s, so to must The Pictures Generation be understood via politics and postmodernism in culture and theory.


‘Modernism also thought compulsively about the New and tried to watch its coming into being (inventing for that purpose the registering and inscription devices akin to historical time-lapse photography), but the postmodern looks for breaks, for events rather than new worlds, for the telltale instant after which it is no longer the same; for the “When-it-all- changed,” as [writer William] Gibson puts it, or, better still, for shifts and irrevocable changes in the representation of things and of the way they change.’ – Fredric Jameson

Modernism = The New, watching for the new to happen (time lapse photography)

Postmodernism = the specific moment or event in which the new came about. The moment “when-it-all-changed”.

However, the important point here is that we cannot think of history, or art history as linear. One event does not give rise to a new thing in any logical order, nor does it follow that modernism strictly ends and postmodernism begins

‘The rhetorical strategy of the preceding pages has involved an experiment, namely, the attempt to see whether by systematizing something that is resolutely unsystematic, and historicizing something that is resolutely ahistorical, one couldn’t outflank it and force a historical way at least of thinking about that. “We have to name the system”: this high point of the sixties finds an unexpected revival in the Postmodernism debate.’ – Fredric Jameson


Representation vs. Reality

Representation is wished to see something in its reality – contributes to what we see as reality

  • Homeless, poverty etc. aren’t given enough attention.

Documentary constructs representation of an image.

Photographs construct reality.

Selective amount of information.

Available information: fact and fiction


Selective and representation of objects or image from the real world. Taking old work and making new work.

Post Modernism:

Modernism: is the new

Post Modernism: when the new came about (the moment it all changed)

The Picture Generation:

Came about in the 70’s – 80’s.

Sherrie Levine. – Photography- constucting Evan’s work in her own form.

  • Bronze Urinal
  • higher value
  • value of art


Cidy Sherman – 1978
Walker Evans
October – Douglas Crimp
Representation – Various meanings to an image. Plays on our assumption.