Waiting for Tear Gas, 1999-2000

Still image projection, Variable dimensions

"How do we invent our lives out of a limited range of possibilities, and how are our lives invented for us by those in power?" As I have already suggested, if these questions are asked only within the institutional boundaries of elite culture, only within the "art world," then the answers will be merely academic. Given a certain poverty of means, this art aims toward a wider audience, and toward considerations of concrete social transformation.

[…] A political critique of the documentary genre is sorely needed. Socially conscious American artists have much to learn from both the successes and the mistakes, compromises and collaborations of their Progressive Era and the New Deal predecessors. How do we assess the close historical partnership of documentary artists and social democrats? How do we assess the relation between form and politics in the work of the more progressive Worker's Film and Photo League? How do we avoid a kind of aestheticized political nostalgia in viewing the work of the 1930s? And how about the co-optation of the documentary style by corporate capitalism (notably the oil companies and the television networks) in the late 1940s? How do we disentangle ourselves from the authoritarian and bureaucratic aspects of the genre, from its implicit positivism? (All of this is evidenced in any one second of an Edward R. Murrow or a Walter Cronkite telecasts.) How do we produce an art that elicits dialogue rather than uncritical, pseudo-political affirmation?

[…] The most intimate, human-scale relationship to suffer mystification in all this is the specific social engagement that results in the image: the negotiation between photographer and subject in the making of a portrait, the seduction, coercion, collaboration, or rip off. But if we widen the angle of our view, we find that the broader institutional politics of elite and "popular" culture are also being obscured in the romance of the photographer as artist.

Allan Sekula, 2000

Technical details

Original title:
Waiting for Tear Gas
Registration number:
Sekula, Allan
Date created:
Date acquired:
On loan
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation
Object type:
Still image projection
Slide projection and autoadhesive vinyl
Variable dimensions
Edition number:
Ed. 2/5
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation
© The Estate of Allan Sekula
It has accessibility resources:

The MACBA Collection features Catalan, Spanish and international art and, although it includes works from the 1920s onwards, its primary focus is on the period between the 1960s and the present.

For more information on the work or the artist, please consult MACBA's Library. To request a loan of the work, please write to colleccio [at] macba.cat.

If you need a high resolution image of the work, you must submit an image loan request.



Allan Sekula "Waiting for Tear Gas", 1999
Allan Sekula "Waiting for Tear Gas", 1999
Allan Sekula "Waiting for Tear Gas", 1999


Son[i]a #119. Allan Sekula