SPEAKER: So now it's time to begin the program. And let me introduce our first two speakers, the partners Mike Mandel and Chantal Zakari. Since their accomplishments are not only collaborative, but also independent, I will introduce them in turn. Reaching into my pocket. [CHUCKLES]
So I first learned about Mike Mandel back in the mid-1970s when I came into awareness of what are called photo baseball trading cards. This was a set of cards based on the kinds of baseball cards you used to get with bubblegum-- at least when I was a kid. I don't know if you still can.
In any case, these are all photographers and people in the photography world with bats and gloves and various baseball paraphernalia pretending to be baseball stars, I guess. So this struck me as being a rather odd endeavor at the time. You have to remember, we were all under the influence of Ansel Adams and Robert Frank.
And this was soon followed up by an even more confounding enterprise, which Mike did in collaboration with Larry Sultan called Evidence, one of the great books of the 1970s. This was a book of photographs, which I'm sure Mike will explain to you-- but photographs taken from archives and presented as they are without any commentary.
In any case, this was the beginning of my awareness of Mike Mandel. And he's done many things which he will talk to you about later.
But then recently, more recently-- and germane to this particular program-- I went to see a show at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston called Art in the Age of the Internet. And in that show was a new piece, which Mike and Chantal did together called Lockdown Archive, which exists as a book on the internet and in various other forms like commemorative plates, called Shelter In Plates, which has to do with the hunt for the Boston Marathon bombers in Watertown, Massachusetts, which just happens to be where they live.
Mike's first collaboration with Chantal was the book The Turk and the Jew from 1998, which is a document of their online courtship. A retrospective of Mike's work was organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2017. And it has an excellent catalog in the form of a Agfa photo paper box. If you get a chance to get it, I recommend it. Chantal is an interdisciplinary artist, designer, and professor at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, which now regrettably or not is part of Tufts University. Her practice combines what I would think of as archival research methodologies and various strategies, borrowing from photography, performance, storytelling, installation, graphic design, and social interventions.
Because of her involvement with the school the Museum of Fine Arts, she's done a series of projects, including an exhibition called "Strategic Planning," dear to my heart, and a book called A Catalog of Flags for Academic Strategic Planning, which are a result of her experiences during the transition of the school from an independent institution to part of a larger university. With that I'd like us all to welcome Mike Mandel and Chantal Zakari.
MIKE MANDEL: Well, we-- well, I'm Mike. This is Chantal, by the way.
CHANTAL ZAKARI: I'm Chantal. This is Mike.
MIKE MANDEL: We would like to thank Andy and Kathy Addleman-Frankel and Julie McLean and Ellen Avril for making us feel so welcome while we've been here for the last couple of days. It's been really-- really, the red carpet has been rolled out. So thanks so much. I do appreciate it.
CHANTAL ZAKARI: We're going to talk about several projects today. They're all dealing directly with archives. First, Mike is going to start with Larry Sultan and his collaboration, how to read music and evidence. And then we're going to talk about two projects that we did together. They came to Baghdad in Lockdown Archive. Lockdown is the book format, "Shelter-in-Plates." Like Andy said, it's the commemorative plate series. And then I'll talk about two other books, Cogent Message and Defunct Colleges.
MIKE MANDEL: OK, all right, well, here we go. I am a child of the '70s. I came of age in the '70s. And I think photography also came of age in the '70s in various ways. It certainly was not being recognized or collected very much by museums until the '70s.
I'm showing you a picture here of a photograph that Andy Warhol had collected and then translated into a silkscreen, because before the '70s, if you're going to see photography in the museum, it probably was through some kind of translation. So in this case, the original photo of the electric chair, which was probably a news photo, became a silk screen. Or in the work of Robert Rauschenberg, it might become a collage. Or in the work of Gerhard Richter, it may become a source for a painting. That's how photography primarily existed in the '60s until we got to the '70s.
And we talk a little bit about what really interested me or what got me going in the '70s was I've lived in LA. I went to school in LA. I did not go to school at UCLA. But Robert Heinecken was the chair and the one who established the photo program at UCLA. There was an exhibition at the Pasadena Art Museum in 1970, where this piece existed, which you can't really figure out unless you know it already. But it's a little living room setup with the TV on. So what you will see if you were there-- it's too bad there was really no great documentation of this piece, because it's so perfect.
If you were watching TV, what you would see is broadcast TV. But there would be over the picture tube a nude transparency with the woman's head cut off, so somewhat objectified and sexualized over the screen. And everything that was on TV was going to be read through this nude image so that this very concise and very efficient little gesture of putting the transparency of the nude created these crazy juxtapositions continuously.
And for me, that was like a watershed moment about what it really takes to be a photographer, who's thinking about photography, from a more conceptual standpoint. So Heinecken was really important to me. He later became a friend. I was very happy to-- in fact, even as a student, we became friends in LA because the community of photographers were so close that even if you were going to a different school, you'd all meet at openings. You all would get to know each other. It was really a fabulous time in the mid '70s to be able to get to know everyone that was doing photography, in Los Angeles at least.
What this slide is about is the fact that during the '70s also there was beginning to be a recognition of the photograph having some importance as a part of vernacular life, ordinary life. So we have a picture of a number of books here from the Picture Press by John Szarkowski, who was the curator of the Museum of Modern Art of Photography. He collected a bunch of news photographs from the '20s to the '70s. In his press release to the book and the exhibition, he talked about how photography had become more full of emotional content than it had been previously. And he was interested in that. But it essentially was a collection of interesting photographs. It wasn't really an artwork or conceptual work.
The book next to it was made by Mitchell Payne and Ken Graves who were contemporaries of Larry Sultan and myself in San Francisco. And they had gone house to house and collected snapshots from people who would give them snapshots and put together a book of interesting ones, which, again, were a collection, not really an artwork.
When we get to Wisconsin Death Trip, which is Michael Lesy's piece here, what he had done was to go to identify this small town Jackson County, Wisconsin photographer Charles van Schaick, who made photographs in a small town in the 19th century. Often times they were portraits or families a small town photographer would photograph, including things like dead children in their coffins. But he counterpointed these-- And also the images were really curious because not only were they all these different kinds of situations, but the plates that they were on had started to degrade. So the degradation of the images as they were printed kind of imbued the photographs with another level of uncomfortableness is what I would call it. And then there was text from news reports from that period, which included murders and of all kinds of uncomfortable things that were going on. So the Wisconsin Death Trip was really closer to what I would consider to be an artwork.
At the same time, or I guess actually, at least it was exposed to me at the same time that Edward Ruscha earlier actually-- I have to give him credit for doing this in 1967. I wonder how many people know this piece, the Royal Road Test? I see like three hands, five hands. It was another one of those really watershed moments for me.
So you probably at least heard of Ed Ruscha. You know about maybe some of those little books. This is one of his little books he made in 1967. You would open up the book. You'd see that there was a statement about where the test was going to be made, which was in the Mojave Desert, which is between LA and Las Vegas, and the temperature of the day, which was in the 90s, and what else? The kind of car, you'd see a picture of the car that was part of the test.
And then the next page, you would see a-- I'm not showing all these pictures. I'm just trying to go fast. But you'd see the-- what was it after that? Then it was the scene of where the-- the open window of the car. And by then you probably knew what the book was all about. It was going to be that they got in the car. They took this Royal typewriter, and they threw it out the window at 90 miles an hour into the desert. And then what Ruscha did was he made photographs of every little piece of the typewriter that was strewn about into the landscape and made this incredibly wonderful photograph that was really a humorous appropriation of the genre of police forensic photography. That was really a wonderful piece for me.
Also in the '70s, Larry and I were very much interested in the idea of sequencing photographs, putting pictures and relationships to each other. We'd both, of course, been heavily interested in what Walker Evans American photographs and how those pictures were put in a kind of a sequence, or least how there were recurring themes throughout the book. And also, Robert Franks, The Americans, how he or he and his editor had done similar kinds of relationships.
But it was really Ralph Gibson-- I have to give this guy really a lot of credit who did these three books. This one Deja Vu, the others, The Somnambulist and Days at Sea. But the book Deja Vu is the only one that has facing page relationships. And I've got a few of them here, which shows a much different kind of way of thinking about ordering one picture to another, which was primarily a formal reference or some kind of elliptical psychological reference, which very much interested the way Larry and I thought about how to put pictures together.
Well, Larry and I thought we would do a piece, because we had looked at this book, the Kodak book of clinical photography, which is ostensibly about and made for clinicians, people like doctors and nurses who needed to make pictures of patients in situ in the medical office. And it was supposed to be about how you would light different situat-- the only real problem with this book, which I can't even believe it got through is that most of the subjects were prepubescent girls about 12 years old, 11 years old, usually completely naked, showing all the appropriate lighting that was going on for the proper photograph to be made.
So there were pictures like this or like this. I'm not showing the ones that I just described because it's really too pornographic to show. But here, the idea that using a light background versus a dark background has some significance. It's like you wonder what they really were thinking about in putting this book together.
So Larry and I did do this piece about medical photography, which we called Replaced, at which we found from more than just that book. But we collected about two dozen medical texts. And out of that came these somewhat evocative images, like this one, of people that we're beings sort of used as props. They were seen as the stand-ins for what you need to do if you're going to make a appropriate picture of someone undergoing-- or X-ray or whatever is happening here or whatever is happening here, and even more violently whatever is happening here.
Out of that project-- that was only an exhibition. We didn't do anything with that. But it got us kind of hooked in thinking about using found photograph. So the next project we did was called How to Read Music in One Evening, which is because one of the little advertisements that we found in these Sunset House catalog, which was a mail order catalog. You don't see too many of these catalogs-- I guess there's still mail order catalogs. But mostly these things are online.
But these are like you'd buy these little dopey products that would make your life better in a domestic environment. And you'll see some examples. So out of these pictures that we found out of these two dozen Sunset House catalogs, in one evening we put together a book.
So, you know, we could probably figure out what these things are in real life. But from Larry and my standpoint, the idea of pulling and pushing out and cutting and using these kinds of formal relationships produced kind of a visceral way of relating the pictures that goes back a little bit to what we thought about Gibson's idea of sequencing.
And in this one, again, the idea of lack of sight. We have two eyes, which on the right hand picture would be these two bright bulbs. We have the central picture, where there is some binary thing happening. And you can see this kind of-- well, we can't miss the sexuality as well. It seems like her breasts really don't have any nipples. So we needed those sharp points to fill in the gap. And you know these people were kind of the perfect couple that seemed that the metal edges of that rake just had perfect-- it was a family portrait really.
Finally, this is the last one in that book. We're not showing you everything. But, you know, you've got the light bulb that's celebrating some anniversary. And then the guy is sort of like the light bulb. But he's a burglar. And then the box is on fire. And they're losing all their valuables and all their jewelry. And, of course, it's the burglar that did it. And it's destroying the 10-year anniversary. And all of that comes out just in playfulness.
All right, well, out of those kind of just experiments, we finally got around to doing something, which Andy pointed out is a piece that we're probably pretty well known for, which is Evidence. So Evidence looks like this. You just saw it actually.
It was originally published without any kind of jacket. There was no advertising on it. Larry and I published it ourselves. We wanted it to look like this. We actually got a letter from some book-- or a note from a bookstore saying, you know, we lost the jacket. Could you please send us the one that we lost? And, of course, we had to tell him that there never was one.
That the book was intended to look like a legal book, we were very sensitive to the font. We were very sensitive to just everything about the book to make it feel like a legalistic assemblage of documentary evidence photographs. And what we did is living in California we recognized that we were close to the aerospace, energy, and weapons manufacturers that were centered in the California area. This is an incredible view of the campus of Jet Propulsion Laboratories.
So we figured, you know, this would be a pretty interesting opportunity. We decided we would visit places like NASA and Bechtel and TRW and Aeroneutronic Ford, and Lockheed Aircraft, and United Technologies, and the Berkeley Radiation Lab, and General Atomic. And we listed all of these 77 different places that we visited in the first three pages of the book. We didn't have to do it in three pages. But we wanted you to just feel that this was all-- you know, there's all these places. And, you know, that's all the pictures are going to be representative of all these places. So there were 77 different places, and we chose about 500 pictures over a 2-year period of time.
The first place we went to was NASA in Sunnyvale, because it was about halfway between where Larry lived, which is in Marin County, and where I live, which is down in Santa Cruz. So we met at NASA Sunnyvale. And we saw a bunch of kind of boring pictures of astronauts on the moon, which to us seemed not very interesting. But then there was a picture like this of this guy who's holdings holding some kind of a prototype for a video camera. And only people over 65 are probably going to recognize the reference here. But Larry and I thought that the guy holding it looks an awful lot like Jack Webb on Dragnet. So maybe some of your over 65 and would know who I'm talking about here.
But his famous refrain in this police show was "we want just the facts, ma'am, just the facts." And here was an odd fact that we found that we didn't expect to see something odd like this. So we figured, OK, there's a chance. And we were able to get a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts Photography Fellowship. We were able to convince John Humphries, who was the curator of photography at the San Francisco Museum modern art, after we'd done a bunch of visits and showed him pictures that we were going to have a show at the museum. We got this government grant. And that gave us entry into writing letters, which the letters look like they're written by 10-year-olds on, you know, an old Royal typewriter. But this is the letter we would send out.
And most everyone said, you know, come on in, we'd love to be part of this exhibition. We want to be recognized for the kind of photography that we do. And so we start the book off with this picture. We did visit a lot of police departments, as well, fire departments. Most of those photographs we didn't end up wanting to use, because they were much too violent. And they were very difficult to remove from their original context.
But if you look at this police photograph what you notice is that there is a couple of footprints in the foreground. And then there's a pencil, which is there for scale. And then if you look at the footprints that are off in the upper part of the picture, the feet have actually crossed. So whatever has happened here with this guy, who perhaps is some kind of a suspect, he was doing some interesting hopscotching moves. And the idea here for Larry and I was that what you're going on here is a journey that's a little bit askew.
And these are the next pages. I'm going to show you but just spreads that kind of follow each other. So here we have again some traces. Instead of footprints, you've got a handprint. And interestingly enough, we've got another measuring device. And then there's a couple of photographs. The photograph on the left is probably the guy who made the picture of the handprints. And the photograph on the right on this chair that looks like it's kind of burnt out for some reason and looks like the photograph is kind of fading away, so the fading away-ness of that photograph referred to us as a trace and like the handprint in the footprints that was before it so. We have all this kind of measuring, this analysis, this kind of references to traces of humans.
And now, we kind of bring in the references to photography. Not only do we have this man here standing in front of-- or showing you off his pants, but also whatever this piece of equipment was, but we show you that the backdrops are there as part of the experience of making the photograph. When the picture probably was made in its original use form, I'm sure the pictures were cropped so you didn't see all of the background of the pants. And you probably didn't see the arm on the top of the picture. But we were really interested in implicating photography as part of the evidence that we were presenting.
And in the same way of thinking again, you can think of this rope as just a rope. But then when you look at this thing on the right, which Larry and I also always called the blob, which who knows what it is, but it's kind of an uncomfortable looking thing. Then perhaps you might look at the rope as not just a rope, but perhaps maybe a noose. That's how we thought about it at least.
And, again, you know, a backdrop here for these plants, these rice plants. And then the man in the background who's kind of just there as a prop. Man on the right is there just as a prop. They were probably demonstrating whatever this suit is that he's wearing.
But we don't look at that. We look at him. We look at his face. We look at his expression. We get a sense of loss or of awkwardness or not really being there. It looks like his wires are connecting him to the clock. He looks somewhat you objectified.
And huge cables and connectors, for what? Surrounded by white pants and feet. And then X-raying a horse's hoof. And then in the next spread, we've got a fragmented man holding a giant plexi horse shoe shape, making reference back to the earlier picture with this unexplainable polyethylene bag and a big bucket. And who knows what these things are. And next to it are white hands or hands in white sleeves and another person in a white costume using the grid, another kind of measuring device or analysis.
And the astronaut who can't get up off the floor with these cutouts, Larry and I would always think of these as paper doll cutouts made out of some highly reflective material, again with the measuring device giving us an analysis of how big they are. And then this kind of poetic, sad, little capsule that landed forlornly in the desert next to this blasted out corner.
So this is kind of a poem the way this book operates. It's a fiction composed of photographic facts. These things were originally made for a reason. But whatever the original reasons were really left in this book to puzzle them out.
We've got lots of instances of, in this case, the picture on the left, we've got numbering, which turns into a name. We've got lighting, which implicates photography. On the right, we've got this measuring device, which goes into this deep abyss. And then the lab kind of turns into the landscape, where whatever these rectangular things are doing in the landscape, we have no idea and it just-- then, we probably know what these things are on the right, but they're influenced by what's happening on the left.
And then, well, the hospital beds went outside with people sitting comfortably on their park bench observing that while people were tending to the trees inside. And in this case, the model of the nuclear power plant, and we see the models edge, and behind the elevators could be going up or it could be going down, depending upon how you think about nuclear power. And the guys on the right on this precipice, kind of continuing the edge of the model, standing very courtly, very strongly. They're all positioning their bodies in a particular way.
You could tell that the photographer said, OK, you point this way. You angle yourself this way. You know everybody has kind of got a job to do in this photograph. And Larry and I always thought of these as the Masters of the Universe. These are guys that are controlling everything.
So some may suggest that Evidence is an indictment of technology. And these pages are well calculated to show and endow or to reference that. I mean we know that probably on the left-hand picture it's just a flash, a reflection that's going off. But it looks like he's actually setting off the bomb. And on the right, these guys are just in the mix of this crazy plastic mess, what they can't get out of. And then this chaos of stuff, that's just absolute madness, and somehow it all works. And then the car, it doesn't work. It just explodes.
And pulling down and holding with a throat chokehold and revealing, and then now, we're in kind of like outer space. We're in some other world. And the repetition of the forms of the circles with the white outline and then the board with this whiteness and the dark circles in the center and all these attendant humans kind of connecting with it in this kind of spiritual way, the way it's photographed.
And the last picture is sort of a metaphor for the entire book's message. It's our eager [AUDIO OUT] place. And then the wire mesh has been made to go over them, so that they won't leave that place. We have been able to control everything we need to do. And, of course, we've done such a great job controlling and shaping the landscape all these years.
All right, well, I'm kind of moving on now. This is a piece that Larry and I did a few years later at UC Berkeley Art Museum. And I'm only going to talk about this very, very shortly, or very quickly.
What we did is we engaged Associated Press and United Press International to donate for a period of six weeks their wire photo machines that would be installed in every newspaper around the world. So all the AP photographers, all the UPI photographers would take their pictures, and they would scan them, and they would upload them onto a modem or transfer them via modem to your local newspaper. And you'd see this picture that was made maybe in India or maybe made in Syracuse or whatever it was made by an AP photographer.
But they would continually be coming out of these machines. There would be hundreds of them. Actually about 200 a day would be coming out of these machines. And the newspapers would have to figure out which ones were the ones that made the news.
But in our case, we, the artists, were the ones that were making the news. We chose which pictures we wanted to make into sequences. We took some of them, like you see in the background, there's John Glenn who was an astronaut, later a senator. He's got this kind of dark character behind him who's actually controlling him. And we made big murals out of some of them. And we filled walls with them. On the left-hand side, you can see these scrolls of teletype text of all the news that that came out of these other printers during the day. So for six weeks we were photo editors in the art museum of the news.
Finally, just Andy referenced this. Actually, this was made before the exhibition in San Francisco. I was able to have the good fortune to get two publishers to go in on this piece together. And we put together an archive of every project that I did in the 1970s. So all of the things, like you saw the baseball cards that Andy showed, and there's the Myself book, which I think I have a picture here of. The picture that's on the wall here that was just put up I guess probably a week or so ago and was bought for the Cornell Art Museum here by-- let's see I'm reading-- it's Gary Davis who purchased this picture. I have to give credit to him and thank him for putting this picture up.
But, you know, this was a project I did where I would carry my camera on its tripod all around. And then I would find some situation where I would set up the tripod. I would you know focus real quickly. And then I would just hit the self timer. And I would have 10 seconds to walk into the scene. In this case, there was this open space on the bus bench, and I sat down, and the camera kind of buzzed away for 10 seconds. The picture was made. I had no idea that these two ladies were going to look in opposite directions during the picture. But absolutely nothing was ever said between me or any of these women at all. I just got up, took the camera, and walked away. So that piece, Myself, was part of his box.
There's also a project called "People in Cars." There's "The Seven Never Before Published Portraits of Edward Weston," still one of my favorite pieces, and postcards of motels and my photographs of motels and letters from Sandra Phillips that are all fake letters making believe that she knew me in the 1970s. She was the curator of photography at the SF MoMA. These are all fake letters that she wrote, instead of writing an actual curatorial statement that would be an academic piece, what she did is she wrote letters as if she knew me back in the early '70s and as if she had taken a trip out to LA had met Robert Heinecken and then traveled up north and met Ansel Adams and couldn't believe that they both called themselves photographers, but had been told by Heineken to look me up. And that was the kind of the basis of these seven letters that she wrote me, primarily talking about her feelings about the Watergate scandal that was going on at the time. So anyway, the letters from Sandra are part of this piece as well.
So now we're going to get Chantal and I to talk about a piece that we did together.
CHANTAL ZAKARI: Now, we have to share the microphone.
MIKE MANDEL: I'll be on this side of you.
CHANTAL ZAKARI: Yeah? OK. Hi. This is a piece we did in 2012, They Came to Baghdad. Last Tuesday was the 16th anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq. So it's pretty timely still.
We were invited to make a book for a collection of artists books about Mutanabbi Street, the historic center of Baghdad, and where a lot of the booksellers are. It had been the heart and soul of Baghdad's intellectual community. And on March 5, 2007, a bomb exploded and many died and shops were destroyed. So the traveling exhibition of these artists books was to commemorate the loss of the street.
And the entire collection of 130 books was going to be donated to the Iraq National Library. So when we were invited to make a book for this collection, we thought the Iraqis know about the war. We don't certainly need to tell them about the war. They're experiencing it firsthand. So what should our book be about?
And we thought about making a book about books. And the biggest archive where you can find a lot of the books in the world-- I don't think it's all the books in the world, but at least a lot of the books in the world that are in print and out of print is Amazon. So we started going to Amazon and looking at book covers and imagery of Iraqis and imagery of Baghdad. And, of course, what you find is a Western idea of Iraq and fantasy images, flying carpets, the mysterious girl, all suggestive of an exotic environment.
But, finally, we found this book from Agatha Christie. And we really liked the title.
MIKE MANDEL: It was one of her mysteries. It was called They Came to Baghdad. What could be more metaphoric than that idea they came to Baghdad. So we thought that was a great title for our book that we might make about the war.
The question was, who was they? And as we continue to research the Christie book, we found that it had been translated into many, many languages. In fact, there were 78 distinct editions of this book that was originally published in 1951 and is still in print today.
CHANTAL ZAKARI: Luckily, we found a Japanese book collector online that had a database of all the book covers from They Came to Baghdad. You can find anything online. And we use that as the beginning of our research. And there was actually one book that he didn't have, which is this one. Can you see it? Yeah. And we bought this on eBay. It's the first edition in Arabic. And we bought this and sent him a copy. So he's happy now. He has one more extra book in his collection.
MIKE MANDEL: So we needed high resolution images of the covers. And that's one thing you can't get off the web usually. So we basically had to start buying them. And it wasn't so bad when we were doing Amazon UK or eBay France. But it got a little bit more difficult and interesting when we found a book that was from Indonesia. And--
CHANTAL ZAKARI: So we couldn't first search about these books because, Google is an archive. But it's also a very specific archive. If you are in the US and you're searching in English, all you're going to find is a specific collection that Google has controlled for you. So what we did was went back to the Japanese, copied the text in Indonesian letters, and typed it into Google. And so now we were in Google Indonesia.
And we were able to find the book and see what it looked like and even find some high resolution images, the same with the Korean book. And it gave us a really interesting collection of images when you go into Google Images. In this case, the collection seems very peculiar and idiosyncratic.
So then we had already an idea forming in our mind, that Chapter One of this book was going to be the collection of all these book covers and in different languages.
MIKE MANDEL: So here is a double page spread from the first chapter. Both covers suggest an environment where people are in harm's. Way we can see that the woman in the foreground seems to be comforting this gentleman, who has in some duress. There's blood coming down his forehead. And then there is some exotic imagery of the minarets and the mosque in the background.
And then on the right, probably it's a book that was published maybe a decade or two later. The violence is implied in the target in the lower left-hand corner. But we also have a mosque that's in the background and, interestingly, a Chevrolet that kind of leads the parade of what's happening in Baghdad.
And again, for the choice of how we thought about the spreads, we were looking for stylistic relationships. In this case, the picture on the left was from the UK. And the one on the right is a Chinese version.
But they both are referencing, again, this exotic, the idea of the exotic from two different positions of the minarets and the mosques. And here we have-- go ahead, Chantal.
CHANTAL ZAKARI: An imagery of a relief of a male Babylonian, pointing his cone to the young French woman looking for a rendezvous in the sunset. Or here, the first US edition is paired with an Arabic edition, to create a bigger crowd of men wearing turbans. And on the left, the men are foreboding as they imagine a mysterious Western woman, whereas on the right, the same woman is publicly receiving a secret. And the same blond woman now walks through a bazaar in the '50s. But in the '70s, she's subject to the danger of the pistol, the dagger, the hypodermic needle, and money.
MIKE MANDEL: And I guess the question is, is this knife going to be any match for this giant scorpion that it is entering the left frame? Probably not.
CHANTAL ZAKARI: So we wanted to connect this back to the idea of the war. And we thought, well, who are really the people who came to Baghdad? Bush liked to call them the Coalition of the Willing. That was his terminology. But really, they were called the Multinational Force Iraq. And there were 40 countries.
So we thought for the first chapter we would limit the book covers to 40. And the second chapter is now represented by the Babylonian Sphinx, which was also designed as the insignia for the multinational force. And then we thought that we would represent each country with images of troops while they were in Iraq.
MIKE MANDEL: And so we would identify like the numbers of troops. And you'll see in the next spread. But, you know, this is a picture we found on when we googled Tonga and Iraq war. And it came from the website of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff website. Who knew they had a website? But it looks like these guys are not really preparing for war. It looks like they're off to a party. Maybe they're here at Cornell for some events. But that's what you do when you-- you're looking for things that are kind of odd combinations.
Finding images of every country in the war wasn't easy. We tried a variety of different ways to get into them-- news agencies, personal websites. We actually found a blog written by a soldier stationed in Iraq, chronicling his own history of the war. So pictures come from both institutional and personal sites.
CHANTAL ZAKARI: So a page in Chapter 2 would look like this. The top of the page is the country, the number of troops they sent, Tonga 55, Ukraine 1,650. It's all in alphabetical order. And then there's an edited collection of images that we found on the internet and sometimes text that goes with this image. And we were curious to reveal the structure of this grouping of 40 countries. Why did Tonga send troops to Iraq? We were interested in revealing really the coalition?
So we found some individual stories. Here is a really sad one. The Dominican Republic sent 302 troops, but later decided to pull out because the country believed, quote, "the situation was worrisome." However, Alex Jimenez who was a Dominican immigrant to the US was one of the two soldiers that was kidnapped and killed by Al-Qaida in 2007. His wife, Yaderlin Jimenez entered the US illegally. So Alex had applied for a green card for his wife. And even though he won a purple heart for his sacrifice, the US government was actively trying to deport her.
MIKE MANDEL: Here, Georgia is sending troops to Iraq. And we found as repayment for the Americans training security forces that were earlier deployed by the Georgian government to fight in a civil war against the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. And then the images on the right look somewhat like a Christian benediction, perhaps reminding us of a reference of this war to the Crusades.
CHANTAL ZAKARI: So Iceland sent two troops to Iraq. One was a medic, and the other one was in the army. So we thought, well, it can't be that hard to find an image of these two people. But when you search on Google Icelandic troops in Iraq, you get nothing, black. So then we went to Google translated into Icelandic and then found an article and translated it back into English, found her name. Her name is [? Trainen ?] [? Truesdale ?] and found her Myspace, Facebook, military blog, Tumblr. You can't hide on the internet.
So we were able to paint a picture of who this woman was. It turns out that Iceland was counted as part of the coalition because [? Truesdale ?] has dual citizenship. And she was already serving in the US Army. And that way, Iceland didn't have to send any troops and could still be counted as part of the coalition to make Bush happy.
We were constantly aware that we were looking at a war that already was 10 years old. So a lot of the things on the internet did not exist. The internet is not a stable archive. Things appear and disappear over time. Images and text get lost as people take down their blogs or any of the information disappears over time. So we never found images of the Nicaraguan troops. Instead, the page only has this quote that says, "The mysterious donor nation whose assistance funded 115 Nicaraguan troops to go to Iraq in whose name President Bolanos had refused to reveal turned out to be Taiwan. Taiwan has been courting Nicaragua, looking for its vote in support of Taiwan's entry into the United Nations." So really crazy, crazy stories.
MIKE MANDEL: Or in this case, the Philippines sent troops that were only stationed there for a short period of time before one of their soldiers was kidnapped. So they left. But many of these soldiers actually were then re-employed by a private mercenary company, DynCorp, and came back as private mercenaries working in the war, fighting for the United States.
CHANTAL ZAKARI: 70% of the Polish population opposed participation in the war. And yet, the Poles sent 2,500 troops because the Polish government wanted to reopen the Polish oil company, Nafta Polska.
MIKE MANDEL: And I think one of the more amazing stories from in the book, squadrons of Korean forces, Korean troops, converted to Islam before being deployed in Iraq. As one of them said, if you can religiously connect with the locals, I think it could be a big help in carrying out our peace reconstruction mission. If only that were the case.
CHANTAL ZAKARI: So Chapter 3, we were curious to see who eventually stayed in Iraq once the troops left. And we found a copy of the list of contractors and subcontractors who were hired to rebuild Iraq. And we represented each company through their logo and a short description of what each company does.
MIKE MANDEL: So the man in the black gear on the left is from Armour Group which is the British version of DynCorp, another mercenary company. I'm sure we all recognize Bechtel, which is the largest engineering company in the United States and certainly one of the largest in the world. Fluor is another large engineering company out of Texas.
CHANTAL ZAKARI: ESS Catering and Support Service to offshore and remote sites based in Cyprus.
MIKE MANDEL: And, of course, they like to kind of be an island in the middle of the ocean, which is kind of interesting as a picture.
CHANTAL ZAKARI: Halliburton, world's largest providers of oil and gas products and military services based in Dallas, and 7Q10 on the top left there is an environmental scientist and wetland scientists group from Reno, Nevada.
MIKE MANDEL: So the last part of the book, we feature a page from a tourist guide published by Saddam's government in 1982. And these statistics are from 2011. Our book was made in 2012. And the page illustrates up at the top that South Korea led the world with 21.5% of the commercial investment in the rebuilding of Iraq. So this spread becomes a portrait of actually who came to Baghdad to make money.
CHANTAL ZAKARI: All of our research comes out of an experience of working with electronic networks and commercial electronic archives. So the book is also available on Lulu and as a transaction within a print on-demand technology. And it stays within the realm within which it was researched and created.
MIKE MANDEL: So now, when you do a Google search for They Came to Baghdad, you'll find Agatha Christie's book, but you'll also find our book, at least for the time being. It's down the lower left-- yeah.
CHANTAL ZAKARI: Yes, here. No, I think it's here too.
MIKE MANDEL: Oh, you're right.
CHANTAL ZAKARI: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Next project that works with the archive, "Shelter-in-Plates" of 2013 and "Lockdown Archive" of 2015. So in 2013, the Boston Marathon bombers, two brothers, escaped to Watertown where we live. And one evening they were in confrontation with the police, blocks away from our house. In fact, all our neighbors were up. We were the only ones who slept through it.
MIKE MANDEL: More than a confrontation. It was a shootout.
CHANTAL ZAKARI: It was a shootout, lots of noise, explosions. The next day the city was on lockdown and thousands of troops and police searched backyards to find the one brother that had escaped. We were all unable to leave our homes for 18 hours from the initial shootout to the end of the search. And even as the events were unfolding, we were surprised to recognize our own neighborhood under military occupation.
And I should point out that these steps here, this is our house. This is our neighbor. And then this is the one picture that we made of five swat soldiers that are searching our backyard. This is our back porch.
MIKE MANDEL: So while we were stuck in the house all day, we decided we'd start looking at pictures that people were uploading to the web. And we realized that our own neighbors in Watertown were looking out their windows and effectively surveilling the SWAT teams that were driving down the street and going door to door. We could see that the searches were going on inside homes without any warrant.
The lockdown had lasted for 18 hours. It was called off at the end of that time without finding the terrorist, until a resident came out, just like the rest of us-- we had to get out of the house. It was about 8:00 PM at night. He walked into his backyard. He saw that the tarp covering his boat was loose. He peered in. And he found the terrorist, Dzohkhar Tsarnaev wounded and lying at the bottom of the boat, covered in blood.
So the whole 18 hour ordeal and the thousands of military and police personnel, it was in our opinion, a total failure. A report came out later after this whole thing and identified that it was a very chaotic experience. There was no real command and control. There was an incredible number of self-deployed police. All of a sudden this happened, and then SWAT teams and police just showed up and started looking for people. And as we said, it was really a failure, because they never found them. It was the guy in the boat, the guy who owned the boat.
CHANTAL ZAKARI: So to commemorate this failure, we designed a series of ceramic plates.
MIKE MANDEL: So we were told that we had to shelter in place. That was the term. During the 18 hours, we had to shelter in place. So we made "Shelter-in-Plates."
CHANTAL ZAKARI: We bought a set of ceramic plates from a local antique shop. We rephotographed them and changed the colors and Photoshopped a lot of things and embedded an image from the lockdown in the center of the plate.
This was the largest manhunt in American history. Thousands of military police and personnel were involved. Here is a picture of the press conference, and the major players, the state police commissioner, the Boston police chief, the Watertown police chief, the governor of Massachusetts. And in the middle, the mayor is giving a press conference.
MIKE MANDEL: Near Boston. And in this particular image, we found of the SWAT team coming up to a person standing in her doorway, we realize that just to make things easy, we would clone out her head and put in Chantal's head, so there wouldn't be any problem with invasion of anyone's privacy.
CHANTAL ZAKARI: And only a few months after the lockdown, we already had produced a one-year anniversary plate. And here is the entire collection. And this is how it was shown in galleries. But really what we wanted was to set up a situation where people could access these plates.
MIKE MANDEL: So this is a Shopify website where you could buy a plate for just a little bit over the cost that it was to create them. We weren't interested in trying to make money off the project. We were just trying to distribute the work.
CHANTAL ZAKARI: Eventually, the plates are best displayed in homes, of course, beyond the gallery. Displayed in living rooms in Watertown, they transformed the space into a site-specific work and personal commemoration of failure.
MIKE MANDEL: So doing the research for this book, enables us to think of another idea about how to represent the event. We decided we would make a paper archive-- I thought you were supposed to read this.
CHANTAL ZAKARI: Oh, OK. It's my turn. We wanted to make a paper archive because we recognized that Google is a transient archive, you know. It's not a stable place. Like They Came to Baghdad, we couldn't control Google. So it seemed to us that making a paper archive would preserve all these pictures. And it was an important project, because, as we said before, the photographs are a reverse surveillance. And residents surveilled the military occupation of our town.
So we continued collecting all these images in an attempt to include all the images that we could find. And there was a point where I could go to Google and do lockdown Watertown and recognize all the images. They were all in the book now. A few years later, there are still newer ones that are coming up that are not in the book.
So this became the book. This is what the book looks like. It's 18 and 1/2 by 11, not very big. It starts chronologically with images of the shootout, the creation of the command center in the mall parking lot later that night.
MIKE MANDEL: But then it's not just chronological. There's a press conference, where the mayor of Boston was there and we already kind of articulated all the different officials. We've got a page spread here of all the different types of vehicles that we found. So different kinds of categories, unlike a typical archive. We call this spread the green team.
All of them were in green outfits. And this is the backyards where again Chantal mentioned that the lower right-hand corner is our backyard. But lots of people in different backyards were uploading pictures.
CHANTAL ZAKARI: Amazingly people are photographing while their personal space is being violated. So here is a guy standing in the kitchen with full uniform and arms and the dirty dishes are in the background.
MIKE MANDEL: I like the guys on the couch actually watching the officers just kind of going in and searching. We're kind of skipping to the last spread, which is the final discovery of the terrorist in the boat and what the pictures look like. And then we get to the following days where we see the hundreds of bullet holes that went through people's homes. And in the right-hand page on, in the middle, the black chair you can see where minutes ago a man was sitting at his computer, there's a bullet hole right over his head, where he would have been a civilian casualty had he not gotten up just minutes previous to this.
CHANTAL ZAKARI: An image we liked a lot was this one. And only later after the book was published, one of my colleagues at school actually told me it was made by her son who were staying overnight at a friend's house in Watertown.
MIKE MANDEL: But I mean the idea of having this guy point is rifle toward the photographer who was pointing his camera was pretty scary.
CHANTAL ZAKARI: Another interesting situation was this particular [PHONE RINGING] image-- oh, sorry-- it was this particular image. We recognized the picture of one of our daughter's classmate a few blocks away from our home. And this was published in a libertarian page on the web and certainly not by her parents.
So when we found this image, before we used it in the book, we, felt compelled to ask because we knew them. We hadn't asked anybody else about permission of publishing their images in the book. But because we knew them, we thought it was kind of awkward. So the parents did not feel comfortable with us publishing the image in the book. And we honored their request. So this image is not in the book. Ironically, it's too late because the image has become now a meme in libertarian websites.
Oh, so now, I'm going to talk about these last two books. One of them I actually bound two weeks ago, literally.
MIKE MANDEL: And I'm leaving.
CHANTAL ZAKARI: No, you can sit here. So this is a Cogent Message from 2019 and Defunct Colleges 2019 as well, literally bound two weeks ago. So I teach at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, the SMFA, which was under the wings of the MFA, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. And in 2013, we were told that the school was running out of funds, and it was going to close unless we could find a partner institution.
So me, my colleagues, all the staff, we were going to be unemployed soon. And around that time there was a committee that was formed. And I served on the transition committee, which was made out of faculty and governors. And eventually, we were lucky to be acquired by Tufts University.
But this whole event-- and I'm very happily employed by Tufts University, I should say, and the next project was also funded by Tufts University faculty grant. I always like to say that, because I don't want people to think that I'm not grateful of the institution and the great transition that we went through.
But this all made me think of the marketing of a school and the success of academic institutions as businesses, because that's what they are now. They're businesses.
I made a series of banners-- and I'm not going to show you all the banners. But you could see them on the website-- that are designed combining the traditional pomp and circumstance of academia, combining that with the business language that I heard at numerous meetings. I'm sure if you work in institutions-- when I show these I have hundreds of people come and talk to me and say, I heard this. I heard this in many meetings.
And here are some more synergy, the competitive landscape, accreditation, programmatic synergies, institutional governance, or global imperative. And all these terminologies, I combined them with clip art that I was collecting from the internet, because clip art is very empty out of its meaning. And so it matched really well with the words.
I actually had a chance, I was very lucky a year ago, I showed this work at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania. And they invited me to look through their archive and find their flags. Allegheny is a very old school. It's been around since 17th century. I didn't know. But I think 1680s maybe they started. So I was able to go through their archives and find medals and flags and banners that they had and exhibited along with my banners.
The other cool thing-- and I don't have a very good slide, but I hope you can see it here is that on the back wall from strategic planning, I was able to have an entire wall of sketches, because the designer who designed the bicentennial seal for the school was an alumni of the school. And he was willing to lend me his sketchbook. So I just copied sketches from his book.
To me, it was the perfect example of that somebody who was part of the community and cared about the community and also was a great designer was designing the seal for the school, rather than having an outside marketing team come in and you develop an identity for the institution. So that was a really nice example-- the opposite of strategic planning in some way. It was the corporate marketing contrast to the personal connection you have to a school.
In the archives, we found some really great documents, old prospectuses from the school. We even found like the very first one, where the cost of the school was $5 or something like that. I can't remember it. But a tiny little letterpress prospectus. And a lot of strategic plans that were written in the '80s and the '90s.
So another person's work that really helped me was this guy Ray Brown, who is a retired college librarian. And he has a blog, a Facebook community. And most importantly, he has an Excel sheet listing all the defunct colleges. So that gave me the idea of collecting the logos and the seals of these colleges as a corporate representation of institutions. And I started making these faux letterheads, I started designing a book mimicking some letterheads.
Here is the Memphis College of Art. And this is actually Green Mountain College. I have a closeup. Green Mountain College was defunct in 2019, as you can see on the top. Is that too light? Can you see it? And sadly, they also had acquired all these awards from the year before they closed. So I designed a letterhead with all their awards there.
And I had to stop in 2013-- actually, I'm going to back up for a minute. I had to stop in 2013, because one of the last logo I was able to find high resolution was the Lewis College of Business in Detroit. And after that, the logos were very low resolution. And this made me think that the institution truly dies when it's not represented on the internet anymore.
And so, you know, after 2013, all the logos I would find were really highly pixilated. And that was really truly the death of the institution. So the book starts chronologically, but stops at 2013.
I also wanted to couple the logos with more photographic imagery-- and this is where the book becomes more of a photo book-- is out of these beige pages of linen letterhead paper, these faint images of college students and college faculty appears taken out of Google search. I did two searches. On the right-hand side is the result of a search for college student. And on the left-hand side is college faculty. And for the most part, these are promotional images from websites and online catalog. So everybody looks really happy.
However, once in a while, mixed with the promotional images of award winning faculty, I found articles about students suffering from depression or part-time faculty who are unpaid and living below poverty. Or in this sequence on the left, where one model represents several images for college faculty. And you see him appear over and over again.
So it's important to know that the juxtaposition of the right and the left-hand side page is not designed by me. It is in the order they appeared on Google search on August 2018. So this is purely coincidental here that we have the resemblance between the model posing as faculty and the lawyer on the right. Or in this spread, again, another amazing coincidence, the first generation college students paired with the indigenous faculty on the left.
The book ends with stories of closed campuses and the narrative of how the staff gets organized to close and liquidate the buildings, which is incredibly sad. And while I was researching, you know, the buildings and the closing of buildings, I found this image from Mid-Continent University. And it made me wonder, you know, what happens to college campuses once they close? You know, these are beautiful buildings. Or in this case, not very beautiful, but big, spacious buildings. And what happens to them?
And I thought of the Curt Teich postcard collection. And I thought of making images into postcards that now would serve as nostalgic postcards mailed from the future. And so I created my own postcard collection-- this is a fake archive in some way-- from images I found on the internet and focusing especially on college architecture, which I thought a lot about college architecture yesterday as we were walking around campus.
This is a beautiful campus with all sorts of different kinds of buildings, right? Many of them are here referencing classical Greek and Roman architecture. But also commercial for-profit colleges that oftentimes operate out of a strip mall.
My postcards are printed on risograph with CMYK color separation. And these color separations are done manually. I'm not going to get into the technique of it. But each layer then or each CMYK layer, I made my own half tone pattern. So these kind of wild combination of patterns create a lot of moire patterns. And this distorts the image and degrades the image.
The back of the postcard also includes text about the college or the building or the students. In this particular example, Alliance College was bought by the state of Pennsylvania and later was transformed into a prison. However, as a prison, it is known to have an extensive education program, especially the optical lab, which trains inmates as certified opticians. And the text I have in the back of the postcard reads as, let's see, "One inmate already has a job lined up and ophthalmology when she's done serving her sentence." "Personally, I can say that jail saved my life. It's not a good situation for anyone to end up in jail, but it saved my life. And now, I can move forward and have a second chance."
So the postcards are also bound into an artist's book where stories can be read in sequential order to create a more cohesive narrative of the unraveling of the industry. Sacred Heart, the one up above, eventually closed as the nuns who were teaching there reformed themselves. And Lewis College of Business down below was funded by an African-American woman in the '40s to provide training for blacks who were interested in working as administrative assistants in the Detroit car industry.
Everest University, which I showed you earlier, and Mid-Continent University both left students with debts, big debts. Morristown College was funded to give an education to former slaves. And Newbury College in Boston just announced they were closing at the end of this year. But last year they had accepted students from Mount Ida College, which also closed the previous year. So making this for some students their second failed institution, which is incredibly sad.
So the first edition of Cogent Message, the book here, with the logos, was published-- I put it together for the Allegheny show actually in 2018. But the second time I showed the piece last month in 2019, there were already three new colleges that had declared bankruptcy. And so I added those to the new version. And now, I decided to continuously add new pages because its spiral bound. I can always unspiral it, add the new pages, spiral it back in, that way it becomes a continuously growing paper archive.
So if the need to make lockdown archive-- a paper archive was because Google was not a dependable and stable electronic archive, here Cogent Message, the crisis is still unraveling. And therefore, the printed version has to be able to expand continuously.
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In this segment: Presentation by Mike Mandel and Chantal Zakari.
"Images Objects Archives: The Multiple Lives of Photographs" featured artists, archivists, and curators actively involved with photographic archives discussing important issues regarding the selection, use, contextualization, and interpretation of photographs. They addressed how specific photographs acquire added meaning in the company of others, how photographic archives serve a variety of users and audiences, why the photographic archive as an idea has become central to the practices of contemporary art, and how the collection and presentation of traditional archives differs from that of today’s digital image recording.
This symposium was organized by Andy Grundberg '69 and Kate Addleman-Frankel, the Gary and Ellen Davis Curator of Photography at Cornell, and generously supported by the Melissa ’85 and Matthew Rubel Family Fund for Photography, Education, and Engagement. It is held in conjunction with “Crossing the Photographic Divide: Mining and Making Meaning,” a collaborative initiative between the Johnson and Cornell University Library, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.