Rory Padeken

Rory Padeken is assistant curator at the San Jose Museum of Art. He is currently developing exhibitions with Diana Thater, Richard Misrach, and Tabaimo. In 2013, he led SJMA’s curatorial team on the museum’s largest and most ambitious exhibition program to date, Around the Table: food, creativity, community, which included thirty artists, with eighteen commissions, and forty-three community partners. He has also curated several exhibitions from SJMA’s permanent collection and served as curator of record for traveling exhibitions from museums across the nation. Prior to his first appointment at SJMA, as curatorial assistant, he was the Achenbach Graphic Arts Council Fellow at the Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (2010). He received a BA in the History of Art from University of California, Berkeley (2006) and and MA in Visual and Critical Studies from California College of the Arts, San Francisco (2009). His MA thesis focused on British artist Tacita Dean.

About Rory Padeken’s Thesis Project

Rory Padeken

Collecting Chance: Snapshots of Memory in Tacita Dean’s Floh

Chance is a central theme in the work of Tacita Dean. Moments of the unexpected, situations and opportunities gone unnoticed, and memories left behind offer up a window onto the reality that one desires. Indeed, it is through the imaginary and make-believe that Dean explores life’s chance occurrences by remembering what gets forgotten and representing those things that are on the verge of disappearing. These ideas are taken up and thoroughly examined in Floh (2001), a signed, limited edition of 4,000 hardbound books, each comprised of 163 found photographs. The artist acquired the photographs at flea markets in cities across Europe and the United States over a seven-year period.Dean took special care to reproduce every photograph she found—reflecting the intimacy inherent in vernacular photographs—but her particular arrangement of the images indicates a desire to create a deeply reflexive work, and also a carefully calculated intrusion into the photographs’ private world. Dean’s use of found imagery also illustrates the multifarious possibilities of analog photography, a medium on the verge of obsolescence. Her intrusion, or precise arrangements of the photographs through pairing, doubling, and multiplying, evokes a sense of fated coincidence and nostalgic melancholy—ideas consciously used by Dean throughout her artistic practice—that one often encounters with found photographs. Her editing process also invites viewers to second-guess the truth value of the images. Through Floh Dean highlights an important and strange nuance of photography: that what one sees might not be true but is often what is imagined.

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