On Jan. 6, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Jacksonville unveiled Unverified, which showcases 17 photographs. Each image serves as a portal into worlds of myth, fantasy and unsubstantiated fact that can become tangible through a camera lens. The exhibition contests the idea held by the general public that photography is the most truthful form of art, which raises it above all implications of fabrication. The artworks featured in Unverified demonstrate that photography is a medium that can be manipulated into a distortion of reality, questioning the validity of photography as an objective and unbiased mode of representation.
Within contemporary society, there is a persistent haze of uncertainty that surrounds the authenticity of visual media. Anxieties fester over which images denote some semblance of reality and which depictions have been so thoroughly augmented, they no longer seem real. The showcasing of unreal visual elements embedded in photography is a broad theme; each photograph satisfies the main conceit of the exhibit. The premise of Unverified can be said to describe any random assortment of photographs which create a pictorial fiction. Such a generic, all-encompassing statement renders the basic tenor of the show somewhat rudimentary. Photography is a medium of persuasion and this caveat is mostly neglected in the narrative woven for the exhibition. The inclusion of pieces which reveal the artifice of photojournalism or documentary would have cemented a more challenging view of photography and its dubious status as an unbiased medium.
Still, works of several artists hint at the complexities that lie buried beneath the core of Unverified. The collaborative works of Jojakim Cortis and Adrian Sonderegger question the validity of photography by recreating iconic imageries which have had their authenticity disputed at length in public imagination. Lori Nix's miniature-yet-lifelike realms of decay upset the notion of photos as tools for impartial documentation and caution the viewer to be skeptical of photographic material. Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison construct persuasive illusions with overly visceral content that successfully skews viewers' perception of reality. The five artists push the boundaries of the simple thesis set by the show to reveal a pertinent message regarding modern media culture.
While the apriorism of the exhibit could have been streamlined to convey a more intricate account of myth in photography, Unverified is admirable in its simplicity and frankness. Its purpose is straightforward and easily recognized. In the Information Age, as misinformation runs rampant, the exhibition clearly and readily affirms the fantastic power of photography as a creative instrument of expression which deserves close examination.
The show is on display until March 25 at MOCA Jacksonville, 333 N. Laura St., mocajacksonville.unf.edu.