Abigail Solomon-Godeau’s book will examine contemporary art employing photography whose subject is catastrophe, both natural and manmade. In studying the diverse work of artists including Alfredo Jaar, Walid Raad, Sophie Ristelhueber, Chen Chieh-Jen, Shimon Attie, An-My Lê, Fazal Sheikh, Richard Mosse, Thomas Ruff, Joel Meyerowitz, Paolo Venturi, and David Levinthal, Solomon-Godeau will consider the mechanisms of affect, perception, and spectatorship specific to photography. Solomon-Godeau will ask if there is indeed an “art” of catastrophe and, if so, how photography figures within it. Is such photographic work to be considered political by definition? What are the possibilities and the limitations by which the terror and trauma of catastrophe can be rendered into art without collapsing catastrophe into media spectacle and passive consumption?
Abigail Solomon-Godeau has been writing on art and photography for more than thirty years and, since taking early retirement last March from the University of California, Santa Barbara, she now hopes to devote her time to writing. Before becoming an academic art historian, she had planned to become a full time art/photography critic but quickly learned that it was impossible to make a living from freelance writing, curating, and lecturing. As an art historian, she works in several areas: feminism and art, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century French visual culture, contemporary art, photography history, and critical theory. Her writing has been published in academic journals and art magazines including Afterimage, Art in America, Art Journal, Artforum, Camera Obscura, October, and Screen, as well as in such catalogues for exhibitions as “Francesca Woodman,” “Inverted Odysseys: Claude Cahun, Maya Deren, Cindy Sherman,” and “WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution.” Whether she is writing about contemporary photography or any other subject, she takes as her critical credo Walter Benjamin’s remark: “The events surrounding the historian and in which he takes part will underlie his presentation like a text written in invisible ink.”