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Sean Snyder: Index - Institute of Contemporary Arts

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

SEAN Snyder: Index, the first institutional solo exhibition in the UK by this significant American artist, will be on display in the Upper and Lower Galleries of the ICA from February 12 to April 19, 2009.

The exhibition features a selection of key video and photographic projects from the last five years.

Snyder is best known for his examination of the way that the continuous and global circulation of images has affected all aspects of our culture and is one of the most important proponents of the research-based artistic practice that has emerged in the last decade. His material is drawn from a range of sources and archives but often focuses on war and military footage and the media’s manipulation of reality.

The exhibition takes its title – Index – from a major new project by Snyder that makes its debut at the ICA. In 2008 the artist began the process of digitising the archives that he has amassed while making his works.

The exhibition contains a photographic, video and web print display relating to this digital resource, which is available on the web, and which is at one level an exercise in information-sharing. However, the exhibition also contains material that documents the translation and eventual destruction of Snyder’s physical archive – in which the artist’s interest in the flux of information and images reaches its natural conclusion.

Still from Sean Snyder, Exhibition, 2008, 35mm film transferred to DVD

A trio of film and video installations exploring representation and propaganda from the Cold War to Gulf War Two will be on show within the gallery space.

Exhibition (2008) uses a Soviet documentary film from 1965 as its starting point. The original praises the efforts of a village museum in the Ukraine in presenting an exhibition of Mexican art and examines the collective components of an exhibition including its reception, framing of the works and accompanying seminars.

Snyder has, however, re-edited the film, hinting at the failure of educational projects that are based on the ‘universal’ nature of aesthetic experience and examining the wider concensus of what makes up a good work of art and the dynamic of ethnicity.

Soviet propaganda also forms the basis of a second installation, Afghanistan circa 1985 (2008-09). This work uses footage shot during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan, including an obviously staged sequence of occupying troops and Afghanis joining in a celebratory dance.

Still from Sean Snyder, Exhibition, 2008, 35mm film transferred to DVD

A third installation, Casio, Seiko, Sheraton, Toyota, Mars (2004-05), involves material of a more recent date. The video looks at the operation of propaganda and journalistic practice, and the role of corporations and consumerism, in the context of the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Combining footage and still images from amateur, government and journalistic sources and constructing a loose historical narrative spanning decades of foreign corporate involvement in both countries, this powerful work explores the ethics of reportage, the staging and manipulation of images and the changing role of photojournalists in the era of consumer digital imaging.

Such issues are also at play in a group of works that complement the video installations. Drawn from Snyder’s Optics. Compression. Propaganga (2006-ongoing), the series of photographic experiments work with the relationship between digital and analogue imaging techniques and political representation.

Born in Virginia Beach, US in 1972, Sean Snyder lives in Kiev and Tokyo.

Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, London, SW1Y 5AH

Dispersion continues at the ICA until February 1, 2009.
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