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For the past to become history, many of the details that can be known must be subsumed in a larger story, and most of the available information must be turned into knowledge. The resulting larger story or paradigm can account for extraneous, unknown, and invisible aspects of reality precisely by declaring them to be irrelevant to what really happened. The organization of past evidence into history does not mean that everything must be accounted for. Michel Foucault showed that powerful historical accounts are by no means simply tales of control and domina-tion, but that historical accounts can accommodate difference and otherness by inventing new categories, the way a city zones some sites to be off-limits, reserved for refuse or to house mar­ginalized human life which is thus at once excluded and contained. 

Traditionally, you drink plum wine
Deepening the evening, a length of cloud
Then confuse a falling blossom with

A butterfly / In the photograph
Of the tradition, flowers in small corymbs
Papery against electric light

Blossoming en masse, in time lapse
You refer to a place where water flows
Over a vertical drop in culture / Poems

When you work with photography and have women as your subject, you are constantly asking what is the space between a mediated reality and the actual reality. And I think we’re at the point now in the digital revolution where the image is king. The image is the currency we work with—the picture-perfect selfie, the personal profile image, all that. In a way photography seems like 20th century technology but it still shapes us from a very early age. It gives us a subliminal language that we’re very sophisticated in. I think Instagram has really educated us in photography, too.

In April Dawn Alison’s photography, her solitude manifests an interior space where art and sexuality coincide, where a singular body represents diver­gent selves—creator and object, dominator and subjugated. We witness a self-contained world where a deeply internalized identity is produced and seen, and an ordinary space of domesticity becomes a stage for fantasy and unrestrained possibility.

Back in 1945, my grandfather disappeared from Gliwice in Upper Silesia along with countless other men. They were taken by train to a working camp in Ukraine. His grave is unknown and all that remains is a small diary he wrote throughout his deportation. In 1978, following a lengthy existential struggle and forced political unemployment, my father left Gliwice with his family to start a new life in West Germany. I understood that my family’s lives had been considerably influenced by forced immigration, and that trains had played a significant role in the process of resettlement.

There’s this idea of taking a portrait of someone through their space: Not through the space that they want hidden off, but the space they occupy. Not the ballroom, but the bathroom. This is something you’ve maybe been doing all along. And so when you talk about humans really being the kindling that sets fire to an image, I understand what you mean, but there’s a kind of charge to photographing the small spaces of someone’s life. 

The question, the problem in fact, is how to draw a line that encompasses both ourselves and these histories, and yet seeks to claim them in the morbid light that they cast on us all in this place, as inheritors of a dream whose radiance is buttressed by so much blood that the telling of it sickens, withers flesh, prompts an instinctual aversion of the eyes? What is it to want this, if this is America? What is it to want an America that cannot own its genesis, if not the wilful obliviousness of Random Harvest, the sort that obliterates all recol­lections of the trauma of bloodshed in order to find freedom and love in the hollowed vacuum of amnesia? What sort of freedom would ask of us to forget acts and events such as these, and the sure and certain knowl­edge that their calculus continues, both at home and abroad? Or, is forgetting in fact the necessary measure of American freedom?