Private Investigation: A Participatory Mystery of Found Photography

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© Courtesy of the Artist and Mastodon Mesa
Private Investigation: A Participatory Mystery of Found Photography

8687 Melrose Ave
West Hollywood, California 90069
September 15th, 2010 - November 11th, 2010



Celebrating the participatory mystery of found photography, Private Investigation brings together the work of 25 amazing artists inspired by found photos, alongside thousands of forgotten snapshots from Mark Kologi’s immense collection. Join us in sorting through decades of anonymous memories– it’s up to you to decode their multifarious mysteries!

As the sands of time begin to bury all physical media, the increased rarity of found photo prints makes their mysteries more urgent than ever. Both aesthetically and tangibly, they embody a past that’s quickly slipping away—but beyond base nostalgia, each anonymous snapshot begs the viewer to answer a bevy of intimately personal and broadly social questions, quietly embedded within their fading emulsion. We glean what we can from these fragments of faces and places, fit them like awkward puzzle pieces into a mental approximation of society, and our imaginations are trusted to fill in the gaps. What primordial instinct instills within us such curiosity for the Other, only exacerbated by the inherent inscrutability of these benign microscopic cases? In Private Investigation we are inviting artists to turn the underlying emotions of found photography outward in their work, inviting viewers to participate in the mystery-solving process and delve into their own tendencies to project narratives onto these artifacts.

While printed photography rapidly vanishes, digital photography’s presence grows exponentially. Found photos, once relegated to the shoeboxes of scattered private collectors, then shared through the limited mass media of curated zines and art books, today proliferatewithout restriction in cyberspace. Context-free photos from all time periods are distributed through blogs, image searches, and social systems like Tumblr, FFFFOUND! and Individuals and niches are democratically determining the natural lifespan of found .JPGs. In the process, found images fuse with the personal identities of the “finders” and stand in as a form of communication. How does this technological and social shift effect the aura of these photographs, and what does it mean for the future of photography?

Found photos will serve as the inspiration and springboard for a broad spectrum of multi-disciplinary artists in Private Investigation. Under the crushing weight of a million memories divorced from the minds of their rememberers, this tactile and experiential show is an invitation to explore the mysteries of voyeurism, collection, appropriation, and anonymity.

Mastodon Mesa