American History Reinvented consists of five separate works, produced by Warren Neidich between 1986 and 2001. It was exhibited at the Aperture Foundation, New York and at the Bruno Facchetti Gallery, New York in 1999 [click here for installation shots]. It has also been produced as a book called American History Reinvented (New York: Aperture, 1989).
What if the news media of today, with all their intrusive glitz and certitude, had been around when some of the most important events in American history took place–when freed slaves were given the vote, or when Japanese-Americans were shipped off to concentration camps during World War II? By staging just this kind of scene in one series of his humorous yet deeply disturbing photographs, Warren Neidich examines not only the contradictions of the American past but also the ways in which the media shape and distort our perception of current events.
In another series, American History Reinvented, Neidich considers a different aspect of our attitudes toward history, photographing in various “authentically” recreated historical sites and villages. Not surprisingly, everywhere he looks in these historical theme parks, Neidich finds evidence of the persistent intrusion of the present, whether in the can of soda a man in colonial costume is sipping or the “No Smoking” sign above the door of a restored barn.
At the same time, Neidich takes on the history of photography itself, recreating the look of a variety of antique photographic processes in his deliberately authentic restagings of history. Finally, in an especially pointed series, Neidich uses photographs of Hollywood Indians–whether noble savages or sneaky redskins, as portrayed in Westerns on late-night TV–to underscore and undercut the stereotypes of Native Americans that form a potent stockpile of images in the American unconscious.
Through these and other devices Neidich’s photographs create webs of contradictions in which fact and fiction, truth and falsehood, become tangled together. Neidich’s witty yet acerbic vignettes point up the loaded terms in which we understand the past, and by extension the present. This decidedly postmodern investigation proceeds with quiet, tongue-in-cheek humor, challenging our most cherished assumptions about the nature and meaning of history, of where we’ve come from and where we are going.
Warren Neidich works and lives between Berlin and London. His interdisciplinary time-based works explore the way that culture and language are interacting in ways that affect subjectivity and identity through the reconfiguration of brain and mind. Recent exhibitions include Multitasking, NGBK, Berlin (2007), Neon Lights and LEDs, Edward Mitterrand Gallery, Geneva, Switzerland (2007), My Vision, Zephyr-Raum für Fotografie, Mannheim, Germany (2007), Saloon, The Moscow Biennial (2007), Protections, Kunsthaus Graz, Austria (2006), Masquerade, Los Angeles County Museum, Los Angeles (2006), The Expanded Eye, Kunsthaus, Zurich (2006), Sweet Dreams, Contemporary Art and Complicity, Bayle Art Museum, University of Virginia (2006), Earthling, Andrew Mummery Gallery, London (2006).
His work has been exhibited internationally in such institutions as the Whitney Museum of Art, New York City, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, Ludwig Museum, Cologne, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, Walker Art Museum, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and P.S.1, MOMA, Long Island City. Seven books of his work have been published including American History Reinvented, Aperture Foundation, 1989, Unknown Artist, Fricke-Schmid, 1993, Camp O.J., DAP, 1996 and Earthling, Pointed Leaf Press, 2005 with an interview by Hans Ulrich Obrist and an essay by Barry Schwabsky. A collection of his writing Blow-up: Photography, Cinema and the Brain was published by DAP in 2003. He is recipient of the AHRB-ACE Art Award, 2004, The Arts Council of England Merit Award, 2005 and The British Academy Award, 2005. He is currently Visiting Artist and Research Fellow at the Center for Cognition, Computation and Culture at Goldsmiths College, London (2006-2008).
For more information please visit www.warrenneidich.com or email us.