With regard to feast days and rituals, philosopher George Bataille once wrote: "The festival is the fusion of human life. For the things and the individual, it is the crucible where distinctions melt in the intense heat of intimate life. But its intimacy is dissolved in the real and individualized posting of the ensemble that is at stake in the rituals ... [The] community first appears in the festival... as a shared project with a view to duration" Staged antagonism then between Christians and Moors - together with other modes of observance and the local political aspects of each festival - suggests how communities in Mexico to this day perform their singularity as a drama of contact, of a collectivity that continually comes into being in its encounter with others.

Photography is the welcomed site of irresolvable contradictions. s a development in the history of human perception, as a powerful tool for communication, as a savvy medium toward the sale of commodities, or as a legitimate contribution to the cultural and artistic debate, photography must be viewed as both artifact and artifice, as potential document and deliberate image-making. Recent critical thinking has underscored the imminent power relations that are successively staged between photographer and subject: who looks at whom and with what authority. This condition of the medium, however, must account for photography's justifiable application as a kind of knowledge. Christianity wielded the institutional authority of the word and its ultimate world-design over the indigenous peoples of the New World, staged year after year in the contacts performed between Christians and Moors, or "Turcos" and "Negritos" as they appear, for example, in one culture. So, too, photography has the capacity to bring a contemporary viewer now into "contact" with isolated and otherwise invisible or untenable human realities.

If these festivities and rituals are a response to that pervasive monolithic authority of Christianity, and a testimony of communal self-definition, then, most importantly, photographs like the ones in this exhibition also have the power to make us immediately beg the question: who is that viewer and who benefits from the knowledge derived at by looking? These images do not pretend to "rescue ,authenticity' from the destructive historic changes of modernity:' a symptom analyzed by writer James Clifford. But they do seek to compel the viewer at the aesthetic level of visual difference to go beyond the voyeurism of comfortable curiosity and to pose questions about what it means to view these other cultures and their hybrid forms of representation.

In rituals and festivities, all things can be thought of as temporarily suspended in quotation marks, in the performative but no-less-crucial make-believe, where the moods of amusement and high seriousness are inseparable. George 0. Jackson has produced a sweeping catalog of those suspended moments, where the seemingly quiescent flux of everyday life is made meaningful by the deliberate gesture and heightened drama of festival time. This he formally replicates in the divided fields of full foreground and the various degrees of distance between participants and their setting; or, by stressing aspects of the arbitrary nature of visual order and the intentional drift both "in" and "out" of feast day character. These images report with the bold awareness of contemporary color photography without straying from the specific cultural praxis out of which they arise. In this, George 0. Jackson manages to locate the viewer in a position by which to regard these images with the double-consciousness of photography in its twofold capacity as archive and image-maker.

Roberto Tejada

Roberto Tejada Biographical Note

Roberto Tejada is a writer, art critic and independent curator. Until recently, he was an active participant in the art community of Central Texas where he served as photography curator at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos. Tejada has served as a speaker at panel discussions, studio visits and other presentations at Art Pace, the Austin Museum of Art, Blue Star Art Space, the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center and the San Antonio Museum of Art.

Tejada lived and worked in Mexico City from 1987 to 1997 where he was on the editorial board of Vuelta Magazine, the executive editor of Artes de Mexico and founding editor of the English-Spanish journal Mandorla: New Writing from the Americas. His art criticism and catalog essays have been featured in Graciela Iturbide: Images of the Spirit (Aperture Books, 1996); Daniel Senise: La mirada iluminante (Museo de Arte Contempor6neo, Monterrey, 1994); and Manuel Alvarez Bravo: Platinum Prints (Gallery of Contemporary Photography, Los Angeles, 1997). He has published critical writing on other contemporary Latin American artists and photographers in Aperture, Art Nexus, Luna C6rnea, Nest, Sulfur and Third Text.

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