Lynne Cohen: No Man's Land
Thames & Hudson
Hardcover | 27.9 x 2 x 29 cm | 160 pp
Thames & Hudson | 2001 | 9780500542408
No Man's Land is a surreal and terrifying place, a world at once horrific and hilarious. It consists entirely of strange, often sinister, interiors: spas that look like forensic laboratories; classrooms so clinical that they fill us with vague, unsettling fears; offices; target ranges; and military installations. We know that human beings people these places, but they have scurried away, leaving behind nothing but furniture, machines, instruments, walls, floors, lighting - the impersonal, neutral artefacts of modern existence. An air of claustrophobia hangs over everything - there is no way in and no way out of such stifling spaces, either physically or ideologically.
For 30 years Lynne Cohen has been searching out and recording environments like these, and No Man's Land is a collection of these images from the 1970s to 2001. Cohen began as a sculptor but in 1971 turned to photography. Her work has certain affinities with Marcel Duchamp's readymades in that she collects fragments of the real world photographically and turns them into found installations. Her fascination with synthetic materials adds a further distancing coldness to these disturbing images. Cohen's photography has always been concerned with psychological, sociological, intellectual and political artifice, and her later pictures reveal a preoccupation with deception, manipulation and control. These are images that force us to ask ourselves what kind of world we have made. No Man's Land includes a critique of Cohen's work by Ann Thomas and an interview with the photographer.
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