Burden Gallery, Aperture Foundation, New York, 1989 (first four parts)

Photographic Resource Center in Boston 

Albumen Prints, polaroids, platinum prints, tin types
Variable Installation Dimensions

Visit americanhistoryreinvented.com for project details American History Reinvented consisted of five separate works. It was also produced as a book called American History Reinvented (Aperture, 1989).

1. Recoding American History

These albumen prints were made at historical living museums in the United States. I photographed the scene as a tourist would and in fact was surrouned by tourists at the time of the picture. In each picture I placed an object that i had brought with me like a no smoking sign or a dollar bill to create a visual diversion and an anachronism. Sometimes an airplane or tractor was better than the objects i brought so i used them. Thus there was a subversive performative aspect to the work.

2. Pseudo Event – the Politics of Appropriation

When i visited these sites i realized that none of the actors were of people of color. As if even in the disneyfied remnant of this reenacted history people of color were left out. I did some research at that time and found the historical archive also did not reflect this. As a way to correct this injustice I invited actor friends of mine to the Beth Page Historic Restoration in Long Island. With the help of the Afro American Historian Linda Day we staged imaginary scenes of life during the mid-nineteenth century substituting people of color for those of European descent which normally populate these historic images. At the same time I began to research the work of Allain Jaubert who investigated how the photographic archive was changed and manipulated to suit the needs of specific political figures like Mao Tse Tung and Joseph Stalin. Processes like photo retouching and cropping could change the very essence of an image and the story it told. I applied these techniques to my own fake archive to create a metadiscourse about the history of photographic representation.

3. News from No-Place

In this work Associated Press photographs of American Japanese who were interned in camps during World War II are juxtaposed to staged photographs of African Americans during slavery. The AP photographs are located on the right and the staged images on the left. Each image is accompanied by a text. The one on the right written by an anonymous person at AP describes what is happening or not happening and codifies it according to an overall system of organization and filing. Thus the numbers and titles. The image on the left also is accompanied by a text but is one of irony and samples African American History for its content and context. What one quickly understands is that the photographs of the Japanese internees are staged and were part of an overall condition of effacement, deceit and coverup of the real story of their incarceration as enemies of the American People. The destruction of their livelihood, family life and self-esteem is not told.

4. Contra-Curtis: Early American Coverups

A 4×5 camera was set up in front of a television set and photographs were taken during Cowboy and Indian Western Movies. I recorded images of the murder of native americans as depicted in films. I printed these as platinum prints as a way of linking these images to those made by Edward Curtis of Noble Savages at the turn of the 19th and 20th century. This work was not to denigrate the work of Curtis whose documentation of native american life is unparalleled as a historical and artistic work. Rather it was simply to uncover from the fictions of American Cinema the real story of what was taking place at the end of the 19th Century.

5. Aerial Photographs: The Battle of Chicamauga

This work was shown at the Photographic Resource Center in Boston. Civil War reenactments are a favorite past-time for many Americans. This reenactment took place outside Chattanooga Tennessee. I rented a plane and photographed the battle with a 35mm camera with a telephoto, normal and wide angle lens from the sky. After printing the pictures I hired a gentleman at the reenactment who was making tin types as souvenirs.

6. Amputation without anasthesia

At the same reenactment I photographed the scene of a fake amputation. I enlarged the images to life size and hired a painter to paint the blood red. I then lit the photographs in the gallery with red film studio lights so that the red blood appeared black.