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Fred Lonidier

American, b. 1942

The Double Articulation of Disneyland

Photographs and text panels on panels
14 x 11 in. (35.56 x 27.94 cm)
Gift of the Marie Eccles Caine Foundation and the Kathryn C. Wanlass Foundation

Fred Lonidier’s complex and sprawling Double Articulation of Disneyland originated as a student project for a class taught by Louis Marin, a French art historian who had himself written on Disneyland. Ostensibly a critique of one institution, it says more about another, the Department of Visual Arts at the then-new San Diego campus of the University of California, where Lonidier studied and where he would subsequently teach until his retirement.

Lonidier was thirty-two years old at the time. He had only recently come to regard himself as an artist, after having previously engaged in draft resistance during the Vietnam War. In San Diego he befriended fellow graduate students Allan Sekula, Martha Rosler, and Phel Steinmetz. Together, these artists revived an earlier, politically engaged tradition of documentary photography, but with an added dose of skepticism toward what one of them dubbed “the folklore of photographic truth.”

The Double Articulation of Disneyland puts such methodological self-consciousness to work, as Lonidier “documents”—the term itself being at issue—a visit to Disneyland made with Sekula, Rosler, and another student, Steven Buck. “They give Disney money for ‘money’ (and smuggle in food),” reads the caption to one of thirty-six equally laconic photo-text panels that follow the four artists as they traverse the theme park, cameras in hand. Each of these is paired in turn with a text panel from Marin’s own art historical analysis, thus the “double articulation.”

Conceptual art of this sort can appear challenging, even pugnacious. But to discount The Double Articulation of Disneyland as “academic” (which it is) or as “student work” (that too) would be to overlook its significance. For at a moment of historic change in contemporary art, Lonidier provided—if mostly by implication—a powerful, timely, and affectionate portrait of what would become one of its primary sites, the modern research university.

Tom Jimmerson

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