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Book of the Week: A Pick from Jason Fulford

Book of the Week Book of the Week: A Pick by Jason Fulford This week's Book of the Week pick comes from photographer Jason Fulford who has selected Paul Kooiker's Political Chaos.

Political Chaos by Paul Kooiker. 
Études Books, 2013.
This week's Book of the Week comes from photographer and J&L Books co-founder Jason Fulford. Fulford has selected Political Chaos by Paul Kooiker from Études Books.

"I love books that appear simple on first glance, but reveal layers of meaning on further inspection. It’s a refinement of an idea to only the essential parts. Such is the case with Political Chaos, a new book by Paul Kooiker, published by Études Books. The cover depicts a head floating on a shimmering surface of water. The expression is either one of ecstasy or pain. Inside, the photographs are cropped into circles on black backgrounds, as if you are looking through a telescope. Each image depicts another head bobbing on water, some close-up and others just a black dot on a seascape."

"The pictures could be tourist shots, but there is at least one coded meaning. The work was made by Kooiker in 2006, on a residency in Xiamen, China. From the coast of Xiamen, 120 miles east is Taiwan, a politically charged island since 1949 when Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang were forced into exile there by Mao’s Cultural Revolution. The island remains disputed today, raising tensions between China and the West."

Political Chaos by Paul Kooiker. Études Books, 2013.

"Through this lens, Kooiker’s pictures remind us of one of the most famous photo shoots in history — Chairman Mao swimming in the Yangtze River in 1966. At the time, there was opposition to Mao within the Communist Party. Mao was in his early 70s. He left Beijing, to devise a plan, and made his next appearance calmly floating down the river. His swim was well documented, and the photographs were distributed throughout the country. The connotation was a sly piece of propaganda — that Mao was healthy, relaxed and confident in this moment of possible anarchy."

"Even with this message decoded, Kooiker’s book remains open to interpretation, which is why I’m still looking at it, four months after I picked it up at the New York Art Book Fair." —Jason Fulford

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Jason Fulford is a photographer and co-founder of J&L Books. He is a contributing editor at Blind Spot, and frequent lecturer at universities. Monographs include Sunbird (2000), Crushed (2003), Raising Frogs For $$$ (2006), The Mushroom Collector (2010), and Hotel Oracle (2013). He is co-editor, with Gregory Halpern, of the upcoming Aperture book, The Photographer’s Playbook.

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