• Monday: 10am-5pm
  • Tuesday-Wednesday: Closed
  • Thursday: 10am-5pm
  • Friday: 10am-7pm
  • Saturday: 10am-5pm
  • Sunday: 10am-5pm

1606 Paseo de Peralta
Santa Fe, NM 87501


Talking Pictures

SITE SANTA FE is pleased to present Talking Pictures, a group exhibition comprised of multiple video installations that explore the wide range of human communication. The works examine how we exchange ideas between ourselves, and through what channels as related to the senses including aural, visual, gesture, body language, and sense of touch.

Since video’s wide acceptance as an artistic medium in the 1990s, artists have put it to many uses. There are videos that resemble animated abstract paintings, videos that form parts of large figurative sculptures, videos that tell stories, and videos that are largely still images. But one of the strongest recurring qualities in video art is its focus on the isolation and expansion of various forms of human communication. Organized by Laura Steward, SITE Santa Fe’s Phillips Director, with Janet Dees, Thaw Curatorial Fellow, the exhibition examines this quality, intrinsic to a medium that unfolds over time in images and sound. For example, the artists Diller + Scofidio, in their large projection of 1993, Soft Sell, isolate a fire-engine red lipsticked mouth that entices us with things we might want. “Hey you, wanna buy something for nothing?” it says, “Hey you, wanna buy some motherly love?” Projected on a grand scale, this desirous mouth communicates with riveting efficacy, inducing wants in us we didn’t know we had.

Bruce Nauman’s 1996 work, World Peace (Projected), comprises five separate projections, each featuring one person who speaks. “I’ll talk to you. You listen to me,” says one. “They’ll talk to me. You’ll listen to them,” says another, and so on. These are basic statements with their subjects and objects reversed, underscoring the reciprocity that is key to any successful communication. Yet in Nauman’s work they pile up on top of one another, preventing us from understanding anyone very clearly. They seem aggressive and threatening, which deftly undercuts their reciprocal quality.

Javier Téllez presents the experience of blindness poetically and empathically. In this black and white video titled Letter on the Blind For the Use of Those Who See (2007), one by one, six blind people approach and touch an elephant, some with obvious fear, others with full-bodied embrace. As we watch them, we hear them describe what they sense, as well as what that reveals about their individual experiences of blindness. Ultimately, we come to understand, through their words and the artist’s images, something previously unknowable to the sighted.

Christian Marclay’s video, Telephone (1995), is made of hundreds of short film clips of people answering the telephone, responding to what they hear, hanging up, and digesting what they have heard. Marclay isolates the experience of a particular kind of hearing. Like blindness in Tellez’s video, hearing and speech seem unlikely subjects for visual art, and for video in particular, but are richly magnified by their presentation in this form.

Nadine Robinson’s large sculpture, Tri-Christus (2008), is the only work of art in Talking Pictures that is not a video, but it is a special kind of picture, and it does have a lot to say. Symbols, such as the three illuminated Greek crosses in Robinson’s work, are the oldest and most enduring recorded form of human communication. Of all symbols, the cross, whether the Greek cross that Robinson uses or the Latin cross more common in the U.S., is easily the most recognizable and its meaning the most plain.

Robinson’s Tri-Christus was commissioned by SITE Santa Fe as part of our Seventh International Biennial, Lucky Number Seven, and originally sited on the roof of our building and illuminated at night. Through the ferociously intense light of these 10 foot high crosses, Robinson encapsulates the religious fervor that went into the founding the “city of the holy faith.” A core concept of Lucky Number Seven was that all 17 of the arts organizations around the world involved in the exhibition would re-present the work that they sponsored in Santa Fe in their own spaces. Reinstalling Tri-Christus in the gallery is the final act of Lucky Number Seven.

In these works and the others that make up the exhibition, various qualities central to human understanding are questioned, intensified, and radically opened up for viewers. This allows us to come away from the experience of Talking Pictures with our own concepts of communication unsettled yet enriched.

Artist Bios

Stephen Dean

Stephen Dean is a French American artist based in New York City. His time-based works, installations and watercolors summon physiological and anthropological approaches to color. Often working from existing forms or events, Dean focuses on the immediacy of color and its ability to precede language and cultural codes. His contemplative and immersive works engage the chromatic spectrum as a spatial and social matter while pursuing structures, patterns and moments of chromatic intensity, in the everyday world.VIEW ARTIST

Janet Dees

Janet Dees is the Steven and Lisa Munster Tananbaum, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University.VIEW CURATOR