Andrew Witt is an art historian living and working in Berlin. His research interests include the history of photography, contemporary art, and aesthetic theory. Andrew completed his PhD at University College London in 2017 and his MA at UCL in 2010. His dissertation addressed the reinvention of documentary photography in the 1970s, focusing on the work of Agnès Varda, Allan Sekula, Asco, John Divola, Martha Rosler, and the collaborative practice of Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel.

His current research project is entitled Exile Modernism and examines the ways in which the medium of photography was reimagined in the context of mass migration and displacement during the Second World War. From this research he is developing a publication on the photographic work of Ellen Auerbach, Maya Deren, Alexander Hammid, Germaine Krull, and Rose Mandel.

Exile Modernism
ICI Affiliated Project 2021-22

This project examines the afterlives of documentary photography in Los Angeles in the 1970s. It questions how artists working in this period mobilized forms of aesthetic reduction as a mode of political intervention. A central figure to this research project is the work of Allan Sekula. From the mid-1970s on, Sekula’s photographic practice was a project explicitly understood in what he called, in a reduction of terms, ‘the disassembled movie’. This concept articulated a way of working photographically conceived of as a distinctive mode of editing and sequencing. Through the reduction of lived experience to an image and its sequence, Sekula subjected the filmic methods of cinematographic critique— mini-sequences, focusing, detail work, panning, cross-cutting — to assembly, montage and construction, but also its inverse: disassembly, ruination and wreckage.

Andrew Witt is particularly drawn to the artworks of Sekula and his contemporaries for their capacity to tune into what he calls the ‘intermediary zone of history’ — the negative traces and cast-off fragments that history has forgotten and discharged. Focusing on moments of aesthetic reduction, it is the argument of this project that what is required in this present historical moment of economic disaster and ecological catastrophe is a form of cultural retrieval and counter-argument, a historical perspective that rethinks the works and projects that have been obscured and neglected throughout history. Integral to this argument is the adoption of a dialectical position that confronts the social and political forces of historical forgetting and destruction that is felt and encountered throughout our own cultural landscape.