For decades, artists have probed the photographic apparatus to seek out its pressure points and problematize the medium’s supposed objectivity, leaving behind a trail of differently stressed indictments that successfully disabused us of the truth claims subtending representation. Some, like Lorna Simpson or Barbara Kruger, structure their critiques through processes of deconstruction, dissecting and laying bare the mechanisms through which images enunciate. Others aggregate. In Sarah Charlesworth’s Modern History series, started in the late 1970s, the artist isolates the images reproduced in newspapers – removing text from the page – in order to emphasize their ideological use-value in the reportage of events around the world. When installed alongside each other, Charlesworth’s excised images gain coherence through the relationships worked out within the condensed mediascapes they help construct. They arrive in front of their audience as, to use David Joselit’s term, an image “population,” whose “power lies in its staging of a performative mode of looking through which the single image and the network are visible at once.”
We define reflexivity as both a practice and a methodology, rooted in feminist epistemology, that focuses on the researcher/writer reflecting upon the power relationships inherent in the research (or other scholarly or political endeavor), and making those power dynamics explicit. Reflexivity is not only reflection, although some researchers and theorists have used these terms interchangeably.
While reflection is a necessary first step to approach reflexivity, it alone is insufficient. A more careful understanding of systems of power, institutional privilege and marginalization, and the social symbols that communicate status and hierarchy, are necessary in order to situate oneself within poli- tical structures in order to disclose one’s subject position in the context of research.
“One of the questions that pursued me is whether, and how, innovative or so-called avant-garde poetics are necessarily or even potentially revolutionary: Do they simply embrace a language so deracinated that it is privy in its rebellions only to a few? The question is not unreasonable given the decidedly antibourgeois, anticonformist claims of avant-garde tradition. The obverse question is inescapable: Must a radical social imagination clothe itself in a language worn thin by usage or debased by marketing, promotion, and the will to power? In order to meet that will to power, must we choose between the nonreferential and the paraphrasable?”