Levinson took Untitled #66 as part of a two-year project of photographing flea markets throughout California. Flea markets are almost always local affairs and essentially democratic. They perform a “taking-back” of commerce: agency lies with the individual, and the market operates outside of the mainstream of big businesses. This photograph demonstrates the potential role of language in this “taking-back.” By emphasizing the texts on recycled packaging, Levinson summarizes how commercial texts can be endowed with or divested of meaning.
In Untitled #66, a vendor has provided comic books for browsing in cardboard boxes labeled for oranges and Five’s dog food. For the boys in the photograph, this packaging matters very little. They take for granted that the packaging is secondhand, like its contents. The fact that the text on the cardboard boxes “disappears” into the environment encourages consideration of the recycling nature of the flea market. The intended message of these boxes, carefully designed to sell dog food and oranges, is subverted and made obsolete by the box’s application toward a different purpose. Only the contents of the boxes are relevant and thus allowed to speak for themselves.
MD, PHOTOdocument exhibition, March 30, 2012-July 22, 2012
children; newspapers; magazines; boxes; figures
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