Nicholas Brown at nonsite:
The two dialectical modes—call them determinate and indeterminate negation—are unevenly distributed throughout Fried’s work. (There is probably more to be said about that.) From the standpoint of Jacques-Louis David’s Intervention of the Sabine Women, the approach he had taken in Oath of the Horatii just over a decade earlier appears as superseded. But while Rineke Dijkstra’s bathers mobilize facingness and an awareness of the camera, there is no sense in Fried’s interpretation of them that they supersede, negate, or critique Andreas Gursky’s preference for figures that are oblivious to the camera or viewed from behind. One can imagine formulating a claim that Dijkstra’s bathers do in fact represent an advance over some of Gursky’s pictures—a deepening or reduplication of the photographic tension between automatism and intention—but that would be an additional claim, beyond the essentially dialectical one that the two photographers are working in the context of a self-critical normative or institutional field; that both artists are engaged in confronting a problem or contradiction that is understood to be constitutive of photography itself, a “hidden motor” of dialectical development (AO 50). Dialectical movement can be expansive or lateral—even rhizomatic (“well-grubbed”)—as well as determinately directional.