Variable Piece #101, 1972
This work by Douglas Heubler (1924 – 1997) – a pioneer of conceptual art.
Heubler was an American artist who moved from painting, sculpting and installation art work to documentary photography to explore social environments and the effect of passing time on objects.
Huebler took 10 portraits of the photographer Bernd Becher (himself a noted typologist) showing a sequence of deliberate poses Becher was asked to perform (priest, criminal, lover, old man, policeman, artist, Bernd Becher, philosopher, spy, nice guy).
A few months after the portraits had been taken, Huebler forwarded them to Becher and asked him to make the correct associations. The two different
sequences are then presented to the viewer, the captions determined first by the photographer (Huebler) and second by the subject (Becher).
Heubler never exhibited the images in the original order and with the original classifications, only with Becher’s choice and we never know which ones were ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Perhaps that’s the whole point. The viewer will always use their own classifications or typologies to organise a set of images. Especially in a portrait where there is no other information about the person.
I think this emphasises the fact that it is very difficult to imbue meaning and or knowing about a person in and a portrait, especially studio images with little or no extra ‘clues’.
- “Game Face: Douglas Huebler and the Voiding of Photographic Portraiture”
- lynda512863. “Douglas Huebler.” Lynda Kuit Photography – Identity and Place, Lynda Kuit Photography – Identity and Place, 30 May 2016, lyndakuitphotographyiap.wordpress.com/2016/05/30/douglas-huebler/. Accessed [8 June 2020].
- —. “Conceptual Art.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 4 June 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conceptual_art. [Accessed 8 June 2020].
- —. “Douglas Huebler.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 27 May 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Huebler. [Accessed 8 June 2020].