We Have Seen These
Pictures Before
Christopher Williams

Triennale di Milano, Milan
Text John Kelsey

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From left: Wall from the exhibition Mathias Poledna/Cristopher Williams, Untitled (Study in Gray) 1967 Citroen DS

What does a jellyfish have to do with a working class apartment building in Lodz? Each new photograph unsettles the sense of an archive it extends without ever completing, and which opens itself to revision with every presentation. This is a catalogue without authority, and the acts of photography that accompany it are merely excellent examples of the modern world’s capacity to represent itself. Christopher Williams re-appropriates the conventions of commercial and architectural photography in order to tell a story about the relationship between soap, modernist design and the packaging of the postwar world. In doing so, he announces the possibility of the “free use” of such conventions, and of liberating these from the productivity that normally accompanies them. Carried to a certain point, such experiments might reveal what a photographic image can have in common with a street barricade, for example: so many mass-produced objects upended, tipped on their sides, or floating uselessly in the gray voids of the photographic studio. The techniques of professional tabletop advertising are thus transformed into critical weapons, and the postwar product is returned to the fact of its own amputation.
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