It's easy to turn a blind eye to those whose ideas, beliefs or ways of life are different than the accepted norm. It is easier still to keep silent a minority population who do not have access to adequate standards of living or the tools and resources to create change for themselves. To open up discussion to different voices and view points would spark a range of emotions, from trepidation to desire, and a civilized society certainly does not sully itself with such abject behavior. Worse yet, things may actually change and where would our ruling class be then? So rather than entertain the notion of difference, boundaries are set, etiquette and protocol are defined, laws are put into effect and those who dare to question authority are ridiculed, punished or silenced in one way or another. But as we all know, life is not a one-size-fits-all affair, and the accepted way of life is not acceptable to everyone. The epic tug-o-war continues between those who protect and defend the status quo and those who push the boundaries to shape society into something that is acceptable by everyone—not just the select and privileged few. There may come a time when each and every one of us sees eye-to-eye and acknowledges differences for what they are, rather than faults or perversions. If this ever becomes so, we may finally find ourselves living in a world where all individuals can live without fear of scrutiny or intolerance. Until then, it is necessary to continue hammering away at the shield of indifference imposed by a so-called civilized society, in the attempt to reconcile that which is overlooked and otherwise under-served.
With the theme of "exposure" we hoped to accomodate a range of topics relative to the mission and interests of ATA. What we received did indeed span a wide range—from erotic art to photographic exposÚs of social and cultural matters. Most of the authors in this issue consider their respective topics as mediated through a camera lens—which helps to frame their subject both visually and conceptually. Guillermo Gómez-Peña considers the boundaries between art and controversy and the relationship between performance artists and cultural institutions in the current age of anxiety. Bill Daniel shares a photographic series of the lower ninth ward of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and discusses this tragedy in the larger scope of our civilization at the end of the oil era. Tina Butcher discusses bringing erotic art to middle America in the hopes of cultivating fringe culture amidst the overwhelming popularity of right-wing conservativism. Maggie Foster's video captures a magical moment between the artist and her medium when the doorway between belief and disbelief is blown wide open. Kent Howie's series of photographs taken of doorways in San Francisco's forgotten underworld of single room occupancy hotels shows how a sense of self can be maintained in the face of adversity. Julie Lindow's article discusses how both community and cultural production are rapidly being suffocated by big box chains. She and photographer Rebecca McBride share some of the research, ideas and images they have gathered during the course of working on their current project which documents the rise and fall of San Francisco's single-screen rep movie houses.
The lens of a camera can capture just about anything. It is how the subject is framed and presented that reveals certain details or perspectives that may otherwise go un-noticed. It is then up to the viewer to make certain choices as to how to process the information. But the most important thing, regardless of the subject or the way it is received, is that the information is available for consideration. It is in our best interest to encourage the cultivation of many voices and ideas when all signs along the road are otherwise pointing us towards a bleak, indifferent and formidable future.
Editorial by Kathleen Quillian.