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HAPPENINGText: Stephanie Bui (The Daily Couture)

In our world being saturated with images, “The Supermarket of Images” exhibition at the Jeu de Paume, until June 7th 2020, in Paris, works wonders at addressing questions about the economic aspect of images, deriving from the chief curator Peter Szendy’s book, “The Supermarket of the Visible”, and notably the concept of “iconomy” — a neologism from “icon” and “economy” inspired by a quote of Gilles Deleuze. With curators Emmanuel Alloa and Marta Ponsa, the exhibition weathers sharp scrutiny of the materiality of images from a rather Marxist perspective, says philosopher Peter Szendy, who explores images according to the theme of the labor. Images are manufactured items produced by an infrastructure behind the scene that is material. It’s all about storage, management, transportation (including the ecological cost of digital communications) and the paths images follow, their weight, the fluidity or viscosity of their exchanges and their fluctuating values.

Andreas Gursky “Amazon”, 2016 © Andreas Gursky. Courtesy of the artist and Sprüth Magers / ADAGP, 2019

There lies the paradox of images that the exhibition explores, insists Szendy: unveiling the materiality of images whereas they are regarded as immaterial items. 48 artists give the unseen of images a rethink according to five themes: stocks, raw materials, work, values and exchange. 67 artworks are approached through the lens of the iconomy, thus offering a new reading of the artsworks, some of which from the 60’s as well, like the one by Martha Rosler. Amid it all is the question of what happens to visibility in the age of globalized iconomies. Turns out that the razor-sharp scrutiny of the economic ecosystem of images invites us to slow down as well and favor to scrutinize our own relationship to images that are imbued with meanings well beyond the issue of aesthetics, tackling the multifaceted theme of the value of images.

Martha Rosler “Cargo Cult” from Body Beautiful, or Beauty Knows No Pain, 1966-1972. Courtesy of the artist and la galerie Nagel Draxler Berlin / Cologne © Martha Rosler

All in all, in light of the complex questions asked by the curators, the exhibition’s prominent artwork of Evan Roth, “Since You Were Born” (2019-2020), plays out well at conveying an insightful overview of the tools of the trade of the iconomy and our submission to it. The artist explores our interactions with most of our research, shopping, personal and professional communications, reading and leisure activities taking place via the network. They leave indelible traces, producing data, which the big companies that provide us with the network store and monetize.

Evan Roth “Since You Were Born”, 2019 © Photo by Bob Self, The Florida Times-Union. Courtesy of MOCA, Jacksonville, Florida

In 2012 Evan Roth began a series of works titled Internet Cache, using images accumulated in his computer’s cache. In these pieces, explains curator Marta Ponsa, Roth employs the software used to make sprite sheets (two-bit video game animations), but distorting it to generate groups of images with dimensions that are decided by an algorithm. Roth’s artistic work is pervaded by the hacker philosophy, and he also collaborates with alternative collectives such as Free Art and Technology Lab (F.A.T. Lab).

In this installation, Roth takes the birth of his second daughter on 29 June 2016 as the starting point for creating a site-specific project, printing all the images stored in his web cache, without establishing any kind of selection or hierarchy. Family photos, logos, screenshots and advertising banners accumulate and saturate the visual space around the viewer, creating a sprawling and dizzying eye-popping artwork that proves perfect to question our own relationship to images and to what goes on behind-the scenes of the iconomy that is left invisible. Whatever the context, time and space that produced the images featured in the exhibition, the iconomy turns out to be a potent concept for meaning making.

The Supermarket of Images
Date: February 11th – June 7th, 2020
Opening Hours: 11:00 – 19:00 (Tuesday till 21:00)
Closed Monday and Public Holidays
Place: Jeu de Paume
Address: Paris
1, place de la Concorde
75008 Paris
Admission: Adult 10 €, Students and Seniors 7.50 €
Tel: +33 (0)1 4703 1250

Text: Stephanie Bui (The Daily Couture)
Photos: Courtesy of the artist, Jeu de Paume

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