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Accepted Paper:

Painting with Photographs: xerographic photocopying and transfer in the work of Njideka Akunyili Crosby  
Rory Tsapayi (Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa)

Paper short abstract:

Tracing the manual and technological histories of xerographic photocopying and manual transfer, I consider the artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s practice of “painting with photographs,” to explore the labour of image-making, the spectrum of copy/original, and memory as it is evoked photographically.

Paper long abstract:

The Nigerian artist and McArthur ‘Genius’ Njideka Akunyili Crosby has a signature and extensively developed practice of using xerox transfers of photographs sourced from Nigerian popular media and her familial archive. Beginning with the technological history of xerography and considering the social and aesthetic implications of photocopying, this paper reads Akunyili Crosby’s gesture of xerox transfer as a means of “painting with photographs,” and makes an art historical analysis of her work using theoretical frameworks developed around both painting and photography, attempting a transmedia approach that benefits from the differences, similarities, and dialogues between types of images. Informed by Walter Benjamin’s thinking on mechanical reproduction and a Marxist position on (alienated) labour, I interpret the artistic strategy of transfer as an evocative intervention into automated image-making. Looking to varied and contradictory notions of ‘surface’ and ‘surfacism’ via European painting, West African studio portraiture, and Tina Campt's thinking on the haptic affect of photographs, I complicate the supposed inferiority of the copy as it relates to the original, and the wholeness of the positive as it relies on the negative. Emphasizing the transitory character of photography, I contend that photographs are "distributed objects" (per Elizabeth Edwards), they are malleable and liable and derive much of their meaning from these qualities that exist alongside the visual.

Panel Arts13
Negative forms and future genres in African photographs, museums and art
  Session 1 Wednesday 31 May, 2023, -