Over the past decade, mobile-phone cameras have changed how photographs are made, used, and looked at. While the camera once functioned chiefly as a tool for preserving the past, today people use mobile phones to share their visual experience in real time and with unprecedented intimacy. “Talking Pictures” explores what happens when an artist is partnered with another artist, and the pair engages in a visual dialogue using only their phones.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art commissioned 12 artists to participate in such a project, all of whom were asked to invite another artist to be his or her conversation partner for a five-month period. From November 2016 to April 2017, the participants sent still images and brief videos back and forth in a game of pictorial ping-pong. They were asked not to write messages or captions and to refrain from sharing their images on social media. Otherwise, the content and frequency of communication was determined by the artists themselves.
Highlights of the exhibition that resulted include a conversation between Manjari Sharma and Irina Rozovsky, who discovered they were both pregnant and due in April (their conversation ended with images of their newborns); a comical back-and-forth of videos between William Wegman and Tony Oursler; an exchange of photographs of paintings created especially for this project by Cynthia Daignault and Daniel Heidkamp; and a witty dialogue about feminism and political resistance between Nicole Eisenman and A. L. Steiner.
The other participating artists in “Talking Pictures” include Sanford Biggers and Shawn Peters; Cao Fei and Wu Zhang; Teju Cole and Laura Poitras; Njideka Akunyili Crosby and Nontsikelelo Mutiti; Nina Katchadourian and Lenka Clayton; Christoph Niemann and Nicholas Blechman; Ahmet Ögüt and Alexandra Pirici; and Rob Pruitt and Jonathan Horowitz.