Joel Daniel Phillips + Quraysh Ali Lansana: "Killing the Negative: A Conversation in Art & Verse"
Artist: Joel Daniel Phillips + Quraysh Ali Lansana
Title: "Killing the Negative: A Conversation in Art & Verse"
Dimensions: 10" x 10.5"
If art is an imitation of life, as the saying goes, then how does one define art intended to document grim reality? If the brutal, often stark real life is present, is this art? Is truthtelling in the eye of the beholder, or would some consider it “fake news?” Who or what is controlling the narrative and to what ends?
While looking through Farm Security Administration (FSA) photographs from the Great Depression, visual artist Joel Daniel Phillips stumbled upon a haunting image—a 1936 photograph by Walker Evans with a gaping black hole in the center. This chance discovery of a “killed negative” led Phillips and poet Quraysh Ali Lansana into a multi-year collaborative project: Killing the Negative: A Conversation in Art & Verse. Part meditation and part call-and-response, the project is an ekphrastic rejoinder to FSA Director Roy Stryker’s little-known practice of destroying the photographs he found unappealing—exploring complex intersections of representation, truth, and power.