The "erasing stuff in Photoshop" genre stubbornly refuses to die. Laura Carton's porn locations minus the porn had wit but the political variants generally seem fake-profound. By now we all know about Stalin's photo alterations and looking for jiggered images is blogger red meat; artists have little new to teach us here.
Altering "Kent State shooting" photos, as art, should not have happened twice. Jon Haddock did it, in work that was widely shown, including the Whitney's "BitStreams" show. Now Josh Azzarella has done it.
The Art to Go blog attempts to explain away the faux pas, but this just makes no sense:
While Haddock had rephotographed tragedies with crucial elements missing (fire hoses blasting civil rights demonstrators minus the demonstrators), he refreshed the horror without attempting to change it.
Azzarella's photos and videos are more poignant. They rewrite history, giving us the illusion of another chance. What if the planes hadn't crashed into the World Trade Center but only flew harmlessly by? What if the National Guard hadn't gunned down students at Kent State*? What if children in Vietnam were not burned by napalm dropped from the sky by Americans, and what if American soldiers had not tortured and degraded their prisoners at Abu Ghraib? (Azzarella is at DCKT Contemporary in New York till May 17. Great two-part interview with him on Modern Art Obsession here and here.)
*that is, what if the bodies of the fallen had been photoshopped out--exactly what Haddock did.
To rephrase Dali, this is the persistence of no memory.