This summer, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents Witness, an exhibition of photographs drawn largely from the MCA’s collection. Witness asks viewers to see that photography is a complex relationship between photographer, subject, and viewer. The exhibition begins with photographs from the 1940s by Walker Evans and includes photographic works spanning 1963-2010 by artists such as Dawoud Bey, Christian Boltanksi, Sophie Calle, Larry Clark, Sharon Lockhart, Kerry James Marshall, Andres Serrano, Cindy Sherman, and Carrie Mae Weems. It culminates with The Sound of Silence (2006) by Alfredo Jaar, a major installation about photojournalist Kevin Carter and a prize-winning photograph he took in Sudan. The exhibition is organized by Karsten Lund, former Curatorial Assistant at the MCA.
Witness examines the photographer’s role as self-appointed observer—a role that has been reinforced by traditions of photojournalism, documentary photography, and anthropology. By presenting different kinds of encounters between photographer and subject, the artists in this exhibition lead us to think about the various people who play a part in a given photograph—including the viewer—and how they contribute to, or sometimes confound, what it seems to convey.