21 august 2014
Comment & Notes
A Magazine about Photography
Issue N° 06
Roberto Boccaccino • The Cool Couple • Matthieu Gafsou • Alexandra Hunts • Chris Maggio Yann Mingard • Elisa Murcia Artengo • Jim Naughten • Jackie Nickerson • Anna Orłowska • Reiner Riedler • Christiane Seiffert Penelope Umbrico • Daisuke Yokota
21 august 2014
A Magazine about Photography
Issue N° 06
Roberto Boccaccino • The Cool Couple • Matthieu Gafsou • Alexandra Hunts • Chris Maggio Yann Mingard • Elisa Murcia Artengo • Jim Naughten • Jackie Nickerson • Anna Orłowska • Reiner Riedler • Christiane Seiffert Penelope Umbrico • Daisuke Yokota
from The Evolution of the Artificial Eye and the Drift of the Human Vision. The Experience of SEL of Boston and the “Leviathan” Case, By Claudio Capanna
If life is messy and unpredictable, and the documentary is the reflection of life, why it should not be something digressive and open?
PUBLISHER Yet magazine, Editorial offices Lugano, Switzerland T +41 (0) 78 838 25 17 firstname.lastname@example.org www. yet-magazine.com YET MAGAZINE #06 Editor-in-chief Salvatore Vitale Deputy Editor Paola Paleari Art director Nicolas Polli Photo Editors Ilaria Crosta Salvatore Vitale Elena Vaninetti Graphic designer Nicolas Polli Web designer Leonardo Angelucci Davide Morotti Sales Manager Davide Morotti Social Media editor Giulia Giani Translations Zoe Casati Elda Cassetta Annalisa Duini Enrico Scaravelli
COPYRIGHT Yet magazine, Lugano, 2014 All rights reserved. 6
INSIDE ISSUE 06 Front Cover Chris Maggio AUTHORS Roberto Boccaccino Asger Carlsen Lucien Castaing–Taylor and Véréna Paravel The Cool Couple Matthieu Gafsou Daniel Gordon Hans Haacke Alexandra Hunts Chris Maggio Yann Mingard Ugo Mulas Elisa Murcia Artengo Jim Naughten Jackie Nickerson Anna Orłowska Reiner Riedler Christiane Seiffert Penelope Umbrico Daisuke Yokota
CONTRIBUTORS Fabio Barile Claudio Capanna Mariachiara Di Trapani Chiara Fanetti Nazlı Deniz Oğuz Francesca Orsi Jakub Śwircz
Ownership and intellectual property rights (i.e copyrights, trademarks, trade name right) of all materials, such as texts, data, illustrations, photos and logos contained in YET magazine shall belong to the publisher. The materials are protected by copyright law worldwide.
The materials may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed or published without an explicit prior written permission of YET magazine, and/or in the case of third party materials, the copyright holder of that material.
Comment & notes
Editor’s Note “What can be more curious than that the hand of a man, formed for grasping, that of a mole for digging, the leg of the horse, the paddle of the porpoise, and the wing of the bat, should all be constructed on the same pattern, and should include the same bones, in the same relative positions? […] Nothing can be more hopeless than to attempt to explain this similarity of pattern in members of the same class, by utility or by the doctrine of final causes.” In this issue of YET magazine we want to give room to the process of Evolution through photography, conceived not only as a way to look back at the past and examine the present in order to understand where our concept of evolution has led us, but also try to figure out where it will bring us. Darwin’s evolutionary teory is by now an estabWhat we want to present is an investigation lished and socially accepted matter, despite that starts from extremely different thematic areas its publication had generated a radical change in and goes to form a framework, investigating how the convictions and beliefs of mankind up until the photographic medium itself and the process of today. This particular quote can be used as a deparsocial evolution, referred to the human being, has ture point for understanding how the concept evolved and what possible directions may have. An of evolution has, in still recent history, incorporated extensive key to understanding that can generate development and, therefore, the change in different interpretations, starting with an approach the stance the human being has taken against its to contemporary photography, at times extremely (almost) unchallenged power. Truth be told, personal, others analytical or reflective. evolution is an uncontrollable phenomenon albeit As Jakub Śwircz writes in On Evolution and pushed and determined by causes that can, in a Photography published in this issue, it may be rather unscientific way, being implicated as simple concluded that photography evolution today doesn’t and pure needs. Needs that lead to changes. But how does photograph lie in this evolutionary have the task of investigating so much what has not yet been discovered, but rather to give a new discourse? From the beginning the role of docuinterpretation to what already exists. It is from mentation that photography was found to play has this concept that, both photography and the knowlset it as an essential observation tool. But, from edge that it holds, engage in this process of evolution. a different perspective, it also played a crucial role As usual, the emphasis is on the lived experiences in the simulation of what is hypothetically of each artist who, through its work, gives voice to feasible although non-existent. what are its needs and beliefs. Issue after issue our It is also very interesting this combination proposal is based on the importance of the photobetween real and unreal, yet possible. It can be graphic work as a starting point for the understanding clearly said that photography has, in some cases, of those who, through themselves and the emphasis accelerated several evolutionary processes or they put on one or the other aspect to be observed, that has indeed triggered them. If we think about cast reflections and contribute to the constant the humanistic component – hence applied creation of new visions, knowledge and social change. to the technological, social and anthropological evolution of mankind – the visual process of certain photographers has moved questions and Salvatore Vitale reflections that led modern societies to evolve. (Charles Darwin, 1859, On the Origin of Species, chapter X: “On the Geological Succession of Organic Beings”, pages 341–343)
In this issue
Leviathan Terrain Jackie Nickerson
Editorial pp. 12—29
The Flesh and the Bones Roberto Boccaccino
Editorial pp. 30—45
Essay by Claudio Capanna
Process pp. 46—53
Deposit Re-enactors Jim Naughten
Editorial pp. 54—71
Approximation to the West The Cool Couple
Editorial pp. 72—85
Imagination as document Essay by Fabio Barile
Process pp. 100—103
Building a legacy, interview with Yann Mingard
Review pp. 86—99
Evolution Only God Can Judge Me Matthieu Gafsou
Editorial pp. 104—125
Essay by Jakub Śwircz
Focus On pp. 126—137
The PhotoBookMuseum The Veil of the Invisible Reiner Riedler
Editorial pp. 138—151
Untitled Christiane Seiffert
Editorial pp. 152—163
Interview with Markus Schanden
Project pp. 164—173
Fossil Alexandra Hunts
Editorial pp. 194—201
Water side Daisuke Yokota
Editorial pp. 218—231
Penelope Umbrico JPN Chris Maggio
Editorial pp. 174—187
A day with Penelope Umbrico
A day with pp. 188—193
Ugo Mulas Hans Haacke En Dehors des Heures Elisa Murcia Artengo
Editorial pp. 202—213
Photography Classics: Ugo Mulas and Hans Haacke at Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool
Exhibition pp. 214—217
Artist’s Biographies Roberto Boccaccino
Elisa Murcia Artengo
Roberto Boccaccino is a photographer working mostly on long-term researches and documentary projects. In the autumn 2009 attends the Advanced Visual Storytelling course at the Danish School of Media and Journalism in Aarhus, Denmark. His diploma project receives the special mention Internazionale in the ATF Fnac Award 2010. His project “Toy Town” has been selected for the Lumix Young Photojournalism Festival 2010 and exhibited at the Brandts Museum of Odense, Denmark. In the last years he addressed his work more and more on researches about context, focusing on connections between communities and environments. His work has been featured by italian and international magazines and exhibited in many countries in Europe.
Matthieu Gafsou lives and works in Lausanne. Pondering and constructed, his photographic work through the form and the documentation gives a vision of the world where the reality seems to be the product of a theatrical show. His photography has been exhibited worldwide. In 2008 he won the PhotoforumPasquArt award. In 2009 he received the HSBC Foundation for Photography award. His work can be found also in several publications.
Born in Alicante (Spain), Elisa Murcia Artengo lives and works between Switzerland, France and Spain. She uses the photographic tool to create and developing installation projects. Her work play on the concept that the viewer can generate an image by reading other images and other artistic forms close to photography. Her work has been exhibited in Spain and France.
The Cool Couple
The Cool Couple, nicknamed TCC, is an artist duo started in late 2012 by Niccolò Benetton and Simone Santilli, who work and live in Italy. The idea for TCC comes from the epic/democratic archives of pictures that billions of human beings expand daily. TCC combines the artists’ previous researches on contemporary photographic languages and visual culture.
Jim Naughten was awarded a painting scholarship to Lancing College and later studied photography at the Arts Institute of Bournemouth (both in the UK). Naughten’s work has been featured in a number of exhibitions and he is the recipient of several awards, including a commendation from The National Portrait Gallery’s Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize. His first series, Re-enactors, was published as a monograph in 2009 (Hotshoe Books) and his most recent series, Hereros, will be published by Merrell in March 2013. Collections holding his work include The Imperial War Museum (UK) and several private collections in the US, UK and Europe.
Chris Maggio www.cargocollective.com /chrismaggio Chris Maggio is a filmmaker and photographer based in Brooklyn, NYC. His work has been published in several international publications such as VICE.
ALEXANDRA HUNTS Yann Mingard
Alexandra Hunts was born in 1990 in Lviv, Ukraine, but she lives and works in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.Her Yann Mingard lives and works in Vuche- work focuses on the tension between man and nature, reality and fiction. rens. He attended he High School of She uses photography as a tool in order Art and Design in Geneva (HEAD) and to explore philosophical questions the School of Photography in Vevey (CEPV). He combines portrait and land- on the nature and contemporary practice of photography. Many of her scape in many of his series. He has projects deal with the landscape, or won several international awards, including the Blue Earth Alliance (USA) how landscape should be understood today. Her works can be found, in 2004 for a series done in collaboration with Alban Kakulya on new external among the others, in Ernst&Young and KPMG collections. So far she borders of Europe and published has published four books. with the title East of a New Eden. www.yannmingard.ch
Christiane Seiffert www.vsala.com/vincenz_sala/ Christiane_Seiffert.html Born in Lübeck (Germany), Christiane Seiffert has been dedicating herself to photography for the past 20 years. She lives and works in Berlin.
Reiner Riedler was born in 1968 in Gmunden, Austria. He went to Vienna with the intention of studying ethnology. He then attended a College for photography in Vienna and decided to dedicate himself solely to photography. As a documentary photographer he deals with relevant topics of the present day. His view always centers on human beings and their environment. The main focus of his documentary work is to challenge our value systems. His recent conceptual works deal with the themes of transience, crises and death. He lives with his family and works in Vienna, Austria.
Markus Schaden was born in 1965 and lives and works in Cologne, Germany. He has been a bookseller since 1985 and, in 1998, he opened the photobook store in Cologne. In 1995, he founded the Schaden publishing house, which publishes limited photography editions and special releases. In 2009, he won the Red Dot Design Award, an international design prize awarded by the Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen. Since 2006, Schaden has worked as an editorial journalist for the international photographic magazine Foam, which is published quarterly by the Foam Fotografiemuseum, Amsterdam. He was Vice President of German Society of Photography. He has served on the juries of photography festivals in Mannheim, New York, Arles, Paris, Krakow, and Los Angeles. Since 2009, he has give workshops and a masterclass at the Media Academy Cologne on his new program PhotoBookStudies, starting with Ed van der Elsken’s books.
Penelope Umbrico (born in 1957 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is an artist/photographer best known for appropriating images found using search engines and picture sharing websites. Penelope Umbrico says that in her work, photography is not only the medium but the subject. She explores photographic technique, the way we as a culture make and consume images, the people and things that are collectively photographed, and how context or presentation affects the way an image functions. Umbrico says that she works "within the virtual world of consumer marketing and social media, traveling through the relentless flow of seductive images, objects, and information that surrounds us, searching for decisive moments—but in these worlds, decisive moments are cultural absurdities." She has participated extensively in solo and group exhibitions, including at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and PS1 Contemporary Art Center, New York.
Anna Orłowska www.annaorlowska.com Anna Orłowska is a Polish artist. Her photographs are strongly related to both cinema and theater—that is to say, her carefully planned and constructed images relay situations, visions, or scenarios that exhibit performative qualities, as if something has just happened or is about to. Orlowska is also an accomplished watercolorist; she received an MFA from the Photography Department at the National Film School in Lodz, Poland as well as an undergraduate degree from the Institute of Creative Photography in Opava, Czech Republic. Orlowska has participated in numerous group shows including “ReGeneration2: Tomorrow’s Photographers Today”, presented at the Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne, Switzerland and the Aperture Foundation in New York. She was awarded a scholarship for the PhotoGlobal program at the School of Visual Arts in New York.
Daisuke Yokota Jackie Nickerson www.jackienickerson.com Nickerson was born in Boston, USA in 1960 and divides her time between Ireland and southern Africa. Her work is held in many important private and public collections and has been exhibited in venues which include the Santa Barbara Museum of Art; Museum of Modern Art, Salzburg; Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels; National Portrait Gallery, London and the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin. She is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery in New York.
www.daisukeyokota.net Daisuke Yokota was born in Saitama, Japan, 1983. He graduated from the Nippon photography institute in 2003. He has been selected the honorable mention of the 31st Canon New Cosmos of Photography in 2008, and the grand prix of 1_Wall Award. Yokota had his solo exhibition Site/Cloud at G/P gallery in 2013. He has also been exhibited his works in many shows including New Cosmos of Photography Tokyo Exhibition 2008, 1_Wall Exhibition, MP1: Expanded Retina. Recently he is working as a member of an international artists collective AM projects. 11
Terrain Photographs by Jackie Nickerson Text by Sean O’Toole
Jackie Nickerson Pages 10—27
Moving between land and subject Terrain opens with a portrait of a trim man standing against a neutral backdrop refusing our gaze. Before I try to respond to his refusal, which is obvious, challenging, and enigmatic – a detour. It is an established practice in written encounters with photography to begin with specifics, to translate what is visible and describable into words, and by so doing affirm through language what is verifiable and knowable about this world. It is a productive strategy, one that I want to dispense with temporarily in favour of thinking more broadly and contextually about Nickerson’s photographs.
either harvesting or gathering industrial crops such as tobacco, maize or banana, alongside descriptive landscape studies, typically of open fields and enclosed sites of cultivation. The sequencing of these photographs is however more important than the genre they belong to: Terrain makes no distinction between ethnicity and geography; it erases very real linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences. It is a risky strategy. Although sometimes overstated for effect, there is a common-held perception in the global north of Africa as a vast undifferentiated space.
Terrain is a book of portrait and landscape photographs descriptive of the materiality of labour on a variety of Southern and East African farms. The latest instalment in Nickerson’s long-term enquiry into farm labour, Terrain is neither an impartial nor all-encompassing document of working life in sub-Saharan Africa’s largest employment sector, even if the photographs are underpinned by Nickerson’s acute awareness of these environments as politicised spaces. Hers is a less tightly bounded project, one in which the dominant tactics are play, obliquity and quiet refusal. More purposefully, Terrain is a book that roams, geographically, but also imaginatively.
Nickerson, who is nominally an outsider on the continent, is well aware of this bias. She accepts as given that the circumstances a Malawian farmworker, for example, differ substantially from workers in Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia or Zimbabwe, all countries pictured in Terrain. Nickerson has observed these differences first-hand – principally on monthlong excursions to specific farms for this project, although it bears noting that Nickerson lived on a farm in Zimbabwe for five years in the late 1990s, an experience that sharpened her understanding of the daily nuances and political complexities of farm labour. But Terrain is not an evidentiary record of what distinguishes here from there, him from her, this from that.
In affirming what this book is, I don’t mean to deny what is obvious and inescapable. Agriculture is an unavoidable fact of African life: it accounts for 70% of employment on the continent, and 25% of its GDP. While descriptive of modern agribusiness, Terrain essays its subject in a visual language that responds to the material circumstances of its subject. It refuses to merely illustrate statistics. It also rejects the orthodox grammars of explication and moral indignation that are the dominant mode of photojournalism, instead relying on a reduced and unstable artistic grammar to flag what Nickerson regards as important debates around crop specialisation, subsistence farming and food security in sub-Saharan Africa.
Extending on the remit of her debut book, Farm (2002), a series of mostly frontal portraits of farm labourers made in Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe that included tightly-framed images showing the improvised protective aprons worn by farmworkers, Terrain offers a statement about the shared specificities and common habits that typify working life on farms across Southern and East Africa. In particular, it focuses on the unexpected collocation of materials on the intensely worked farm environments she visited. Delicate filigrees of shade netting or plastic sheeting typically obscure Nickerson’s farm landscapes. If these are highly political spaces, as the uneven successes of Zimbabwe’s agrarian reforms and centenary Formally, Terrain presents a synthesis of two ways of of the disastrous South African Natives Land Act seeing and describing the daily grind of commercial of 1913 forcefully remind, these farm environments farming. The book juxtaposes portrait studies of farm are nonetheless also aesthetic locales. workers, many pictured at the site of their labour, Although portrayed with a frank and unsentimental 13
eye, Nickerson is capable of intuiting an uncommon stillness in the landscapes she records. The African landscape, long the subject of romantic and ideological projection by travelling western photographers, is shown to possess a simple dignity: it is neither abundant nor bare, merely a ripe context for human activity. It is however Nickerson’s portraits that decisively announce a conceptual shift in her way of looking. The cool objectivity of her previous portraiture, which shares formal and geographic affinities with the colour documentary of Zwelethu Mthethwa and Pieter Hugo, has given way here to an idiosyncratic and highly expressive approach.
figures, notably his famous icon of a workingwoman bearing a brazier.
While highly theatrical in outcome, Nickerson eschews speaking of her portraits in such determined and expressive terms. “For me, hard labour is a mixture of violence interspersed with very peaceful breaks, where, in this quiet moment, the power and energy of the exercise becomes apparent in the physicality and physiognomy of the person working,” she says. Her comment recalls a statement in a letter by Jean-François Millet, who, like Nickerson, was an interested spectator of farm labour, able to recognise in the stances and postures of farmworkers something Drawing on scenes noted in passing, Nickerson collab- beyond mere fact. In a letter written shortly after he moved from Paris to Barbizon in 1849, Millet orated with a range of farmworkers to stage a series of portraits in which their identities are obscured by records: “In cultivated land sometimes as in places where the ground is barren you see figures digging the materials of their labour: a load of dried tobacco or tangle of wire, a handful of banana leaves or tower and hoeing. From time to time, one raises himself and straightens his back, as they call it, wiping his of plastic crates. Unavoidably, Nickerson’s portraits recall Jean-François Millet’s respectful observations forehead with the back of his hand … Is this the gay and playful kind of work that some people of bent peasant women bearing fagots of wood, also the material richness described in the street would have us believe? Nevertheless, for me it is true humanity and great poetry.” portraiture of Eugène Atget (in particular his 1901 study of a Parisian lamp vendor) and August Sander Much like Millet, Nickerson knows that there is (one thinks of his 1928 frontal portrait of a young nothing romantic about farm life. And like John man bearing a load of bricks on his shoulders). Berger, who in A Seventh Man (1975) noted the idle Irving Penn’s formal studies of working class metropolitan projection of fecundity and plenitude Parisians, Londoners and New Yorkers, produced in 1950-51 for Vogue, are also a key reference point, in (“the wealth of a cornucopia”) onto farm landscapes, she knows that farming is constant toil, hardship particular those where – like in Atget and Sander and difficulty, a kind of “violence,” as she puts it. – the material accoutrements of a profession are Violence – it is not a frivolous word. “Today’s rural synthesised into the identity of the subject. life has been devastated by years of free trade and For Nickerson, the hybrid forms that emerge in her anti-peasant policies imposed on our governments by their bilateral and multilateral allies,” writes portraiture are illustrative of what she views as the profound material relationship between farmworkers Diamantino Nhampossa, a senior member of Mozamand their environments. Compositionally, Nickerson’s bique’s national peasant union União Nacional de portraits demonstrate a keen interest in the everyday Camponeses (UNAC). “The forced privatisation of food crop marketing boards – which, though flawed, material qualities of farm labour. Plastic objects recur throughout her photographs, notably plastic once guaranteed African farmers minimum prices and held food reserves for emergencies – and the sheeting, crates and bowls. The sheeting is especially adaptable: it can serve as a translucent barrier wall, closure of rural development banks, which gave farmers credit to produce food, have left farmers be worn as protective dress, or used to fashion an without financing to grow food or buyers for their abstract totem. Drawing on routine gestures and produce.” The material impoverishment of Nickerson’s transformations of subjectivity that she noticed in subjects has a historical context: this is it. passing, Nickerson invited her subject-collaborators But Terrain is not about recording material poverty. to pause and be photographed during these moments The radical juxtapositions that define the sequencing where form and subjectivity awkwardly coexist. of this book extend to the very subject matter of Some of her portraits recall Albrecht Dürer’s serial the portraits. Terrain describes the material plenitude studies of drapery, while others seem to share a kinship with William Kentridge’s processional shadow of farming and farm labour in all its contradictions: 14
from the modern cultivation techniques employed using various plastics, through to its codes of dress and entrenched patterns of deprivation (none of the labourers pictured in this book wear gloves, and only a few possess uniforms). “I try to illustrate the embodiment of a metrical cycle, an ongoing cycle where the subject is a fulcrum in this massive cycle from farm to table,” elaborates Nickerson. “Perhaps the visual language – the poses – seem incongruous with the difficulty of the work but I’m trying to ask a question about values and trying to create a visual that will do that.”
border. “For whose pleasure?” This is what I hear echoed in the pose of the man in a green shirt and work-soiled pants.
So, after a detour, we arrive back at the man wearing an olive green button-shirt and soiled khaki workpants. He is pictured standing against a white wall. There is no diverting context, just this man. He faces his interlocutor – the photographer – directly. His pose is however ambiguous: he holds up an intervening prop, a well-used red plastic crate. The man is refusing the photographer – and by implication the photographer’s interested and questioning ally, us. This refusal is mirrored in a similar portrait at the close of Terrain. Refusal is an inflexible word; implicit in the man’s pose, as well as Nickerson’s decision to place his photograph upfront, is a concession: see me, but on my terms.
Of course, while the pose belongs to this unknown man, Nickerson retains the power of nomination. In conversations, she regularly returns to this subject: the fundamental power imbalance between photographer and subject. There is no antiserum for it. Photographers take and possess, as much as they describe and make. Inaction is not an option. Nickerson prefers to tackle this impasse head-on, through practice, photography offering an eloquent tool for producing an ethical discourse on labour and power.
All portraiture represents a negotiation of some sort. These negotiations are fundamentally unknowable, although a photograph can offer varied traces of the underlying negotiation, whether camera angle, comportment of the subject, or use of textual addendum. But fundamentally, the encounter between photographer and subject is unknowable. I mention this is because of the habit to either elide or exaggerate the political dynamics of this unknowable encounter, to either ignore or overstate the dynamic role of human agency. The photographic image is open to multiple abuses: everyone knows this, from dictators and frustrated lovers to fishermen and truck drivers. In Kayes, a busy trucking port midway between Dakar and the Malian capital of Bamako, I spent a week chatting to truckers, some who agreed to be photographed, as many who didn’t want to yield to my colleagues camera. “Why?” they routinely asked. I have heard this simple, irreducible question asked countless times: at a Senegalese fishing port, in a Malawian TB hospital, late at night in an obscuring mist at a truck stop on the Swaziland-South Africa
All images: © Jackie Nickerson Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, NY
The Flesh and the Bones Photographs and text by Roberto Boccaccino
Roberto Boccaccino Pages 28â€”43
The Flesh and 30
The decadence of noble families, their roles, and the decay of the spaces and environments where nobility once flourished are not the subject of this work. These elements are simply instruments exploited in order to isolate a significant, and at the same time, superficial decline: a visual one.
in those environments over time. From these questions comes the attempt to reach, or at least to approach, the identity of the aristocratic spaces that inhabit Sicily today and that are also, inhabited by today’s Sicily. It is an attempt that takes its shape in distance and silence, aiming to deprive the depicted places of authoritativeness and finally, disconnecting them from the reason why they once existed.
Today, the villas of Sicily’s former nobility exist in various states and assorted dimensions: ones in which time and history have slowly introduced new features In the photographs, the imagery surrounding the sites that have over time have merged with those of the past. is considered and handled as a lifeless body. Organs have been removed, as have every kind I wonder if, in this scenario, the spaces have the ability of functionality and energy of that body. What remains is seen as a bone structure. The flesh and to communicate their identity themselves; if our perception may be enough to recall a story that our the bones—now devoid of purpose and needs— remain true and consistent, creating a fertile base for imagination already knows, or whether this is new pictures and stories, probable and imagined. perhaps suggested by references and values deposited
THE EVOLUTION OF THE ARTIFICIAL EYE AND THE DRIFT OF THE HUMAN VISION. By Claudio Capanna
A scene from Lucien CastaingTaylor and Vèrèna Paravel's Leviathan. Courtesy of Cinema Guild.
THE EXPERIENCE OF SEL OF BOSTON AND THE “LEVIATHAN” CASE. A scene from Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Vèrèna Paravel's Leviathan. Courtesy of Cinema Guild.
Visit SEL: www.sel.fas.harvard.edu 47
Stereo (Canada, 1969), David Cronenberg’s first film, tells, by using a cryptic and cold style, the studies carried out at a research center on telepathy and the effect this technique has on the body. The film has no audio track, except for a voice off, cheesy and admittedly highly acculturated, and therefore even more chilling and scientific. In these cold and geometric spaces a man moves with an almost medieval appearance, and he seems to make a tour of inspection in what appears to be an esoteric hospital. All of a sudden, while the protagonist takes a break in the garden adjacent to the structure, the viewer is stroke by surprise by the detail of an eye, peering the man from behind a bush. A quick editing shows us always in more detail this eye, and we realize that it is not a human organ: the eye that is watching is the organ of an animal, but also a look from below, coming straight from the human and artistic underground. The eye is able to release the film’s cold chains of rationality, and becomes the symbol of a fierce and wild cinema. The underground eye scrutinized the cinema of the past forty years and observed the technological evolution of the machines and cameras, as well as the systems of sound recording and editing. The utopian idea of the stylo camera became reality, and today you can build entire films with digital cameras as big as a fist. The ever-decreasing size led to a new use of the cinematographic instrument, which is opening more and more to a mass spread, bringing innovation to be confused with the “drift”. A drift of vision. Today the internet, and in particular some multimedia containers such as Youtube and Vimeo, have become the electronic equivalent of visionary megalopolis where hours and hours of footage of all types are swallowed up. The cinematographic and multi-sensory screen, characterized by the darkness of the room, is replaced by a computer screen, or at the most by the flat screen televisions in high definition. And we can move even further towards an even more miniaturized visual status of perception, with tablet and iPhone. The vision is then shifting its center of interest in something small, affordable for all, and for this reason more and more invasive and radicalized in the global village.
This “democratization” of the image (audiovisual, but also photographic with web models of sharing like Flickr, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram) led the sensory and artistic (and intellectual) human perception to a dual port. On the one hand, in the audiovisual sector, we are seeing a large experimentation, due in particular to the liberation from the old production models. Making a video no longer requires tens of thousands of Euros as it was the case up to five or ten years ago: today, with uncomplicated, low cost equipment you can get aesthetic and technical results unexpectedly compelling. The era of classical cinema, with its set, and the workers, the unions and the long “apprenticeship”, seems to be sinking in a definitive way. And the “official” history of the cinema and the arts will soon have to begin to take all the materials located only in the network seriously, which are created by often unknown and in some cases anonymous artists.
The macro-distribution of images has then allowed to play with the profilmic, creating and distorting reality, having as a final result a plurality of codes and languages, mixed and shared by the whole world. From this point of no return comes the second port which the contemporary technology has indicated to the culture, that of chaos. The constant proliferation of new voices and styles, which mixing together create new visual and audio input, generated a hybrid cultural landscape, similar to a biblical monster. Something tentacular and similar to an immense telematic labyrinth, in which it is increasingly difficult to extricate. The continuous approach of materials with completely different and sometimes conflicting characteristics and quality pushed artistic perception towards a breaking point, a moment that we can define, as already mentioned, a drift of vision (or drift of the audio-vision). In this context is placed the experience of the SEL of Harvard in Boston (Sensory Etnographic Laboratory): a laboratory which was created in 2006 for want of and under the guidance of director anthropologist Lucien Castaing-Taylor. The stated goal of the center, perhaps unique in the world, is
to find the perfect meeting place between aesthetics and anthropological ethics, between sensory and Ethnography (hence the meaning of its name). In recent years, the laboratory hosted many personalities, who, starting from the academic study and the simple “observation of the real”, pushed to the most diverse and unpredictable areas, contaminating their work with the pure experimental art and the avant-garde of the twentieth century. To date the SEL produced short films, documentaries, short feature films, visual and sound installations. All these works have a basic idea and an ethical and aesthetic rigor in common. In this, the SEL is similar to other
European realities, such as the Ateliers Varan in Paris, created by the will of Jean Rouch, founder and mentor of cinema verité in the ‘60s. The bond that links all the works of art of the SEL seems to come directly from that wild eye immortalized by Cronenberg in Stereo. The workshop, through his mentor and creator CastaingTaylor, seems to want to explore the territory of the visual chaos of the new millennium, offering a total camouflage between the eye, the camera, the artist’s body and the body represented. The American filmmaker said, referring to the work done by his lab:
“If life is messy and unpredictable, and the documentary is the reflection of life, why it should not be something digressive and open?”. In fact, the film (or installation) of the SEL provides for a director who wants to reflect the contemporary disorder and which itself becomes multifaceted and uncoordinated. The style maintains a thin absolute rigor, which enables us to understand the immense study by researchers-artists which is behind every work. Good examples of this aesthetic as “samurai” of the images are films like Foreign Parts (USA, 2012) by J.P. Sniadecki and Véréna Paravel, nostalgic and human representation of a forgotten and abandoned neighborhood in Queens in New York, or Kāle and Kāle (USA, 2007) by Stephanie Spray, a film that tells the intimacy of a family in a rural area in Nepal with a style next to a subjective and sensory absolute visual (Stephanie Spray will later carry the latest Manakamana, new media and cultural phenomenon created by the SEL in 2013). Castaing-Taylor himself in 2009 released SweetGrass (USA), co-directed with his partner Ilisa Barbash and made from a material shot in 2003 by CastingTaylor himself in the beautiful scenery of Montana. The breathtaking scenery is used to visually and sensorially tell the story of some endangered cowboys, men wearing for the last time their flock of [p. XX] Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Vèrèna Paravel sheep to make the tranCourtesy of New York Film Festival. Photographer: Julie Cunnah shumance. Although this
centuries-old tradition is going to run out, the film does not intend to retrace the path of the description of nostalgia, but it rather “projects” the viewer directly into the flock, using subjective shots that are close to the animals. In this way, SweetGrass offers us the story of the absolute and indissoluble union between work, humanity and bestiality, which will then be taken up and deepened by Leviathan (USA, UK, France, 2012), the true masterpiece of Sensory Etnographic Laboratory. The thing which amazes the most is that scholarsartists of the SEL are used to produce their film following the formula of co-direction, and scrolling through the titles released in the last few years you may notice that the collaborations are renewed and continually interchanged. It almost seems that there is an invisible will to reset the name (and maybe even the personality?) of the authors/human beings who hide behind the name. I was aware of the SEL of Harvard in the summer of 2012. During that time the phenomenon Leviathan burst, in conjunction with the Locarno film festival, which had put the film in the main section of the board, the most prestigious one. The director of the Swiss festival, Olivier Pére, had presented the film as an OVNI, the French term which defines UFOs. I immediately went to see the film’s website and I 49
was struck by the fact that, in the page of the biographies of directors, instead of their photos there were deformed and monstrous images of two fish of the deep. The site looked rigorous, and that feat was not done for publicity reasons, but had a definite ontological significance. Leviathan is apparently a film on bottom trawling, which takes place off the coast of New England, where the novel masterpiece (and founder of bestiality in art) Moby Dick by Herman Melville was originally conceived and wrote. In fact, fishing is only the most superficial pretext to set this film in the open sea on a fishing boat and to be able to visually represent the glowing violence of chaos.
Leviathan was created by Lucien Castaing-Taylor, this time paired with the French Véréna Paravel. The initial intention of the two was to create a film about the world of traditional intensive fishing off the coast of New Bradford. The two filmmakers recorded dozens of hours of footage and interviews in factories producing ropes and materials used by fishing boats, up to the moment when they became friends with some fishermen, and were invited to attend a session of offing fishing for two weeks. This event completely changed the initial plans, for two main reasons. The first is purely technical, and rebinds indissolubly the film on the subject of technology: the shot was initially created with “classical”, digital cinema equipment i.e., some pairs of high-definition Sony cameras (the XD-Cam), agile enough but still fairly bulky. The trip by boat instead gave the authors the idea and the opportunity to test the performance of GoPro cameras, new ones as big as a fist, but capable of recording both high-definition images of excellent quality and a sound track. The sound of these machines to date is still of mediocre level, but can be used as a reference track to synchronize other sound sources. In the case of Leviathan, the original sound was reused from an artistic engineer of the SEL, Ernst Karel, to create a hellish and material soundscape, in perfect harmony with the images.
The pictures on the website (as well as the final credits where they are numbered, with an almost medieval font, Latin scientific names of each fish which appear in the film, almost as if they were actors) want us to remember that in Leviathan the author’s and director’s point of view is lost, along with the work of the fishermen and the kinetic forces of the fishing boat, in a primordial magma where everybody is placed at the same level. The fish and directors, as well as the fishermen, are prisoners of this hypnotic and lysergic film which wants to meditate on the borders of today’s cinematographic vision. Leviathan then arises as a buoy that can show us the drift of today, the chaos that technology A scene from Lucien Castainghas made in contempoTaylor and Vèrèna Paravel's Leviathan. rary culture. Courtesy of Cinema Guild.
In short, the fierce, open sea literally “swallowed” the obsolete Sony cameras, miraculously leaving
intact the smaller, more manageable GoPro ones, with which eventually the film was shot almost entirely. The GoPro are usually used by lovers of extreme sports, since you can hook them to the end of a mountain bike, of a snowboard or even of the human body: in this way it is possible to capture breathtaking views and these devices are sold everywhere at great prices. But no one before Leviathan, connected with so exalted results the artistic taste with the almost amateur lightness of the mechanic device. Paravel and Castaing-Taylor were able to attack everywhere the twenty GoPro used for the film, in every part of the boat, and even outside it. During filming, the cameras passed from hand to hand, from the directors to the fishermen; sometimes they were even related to the tracksuits of the men who worked or were hoisted on the networks, hurled into the sea in a storm. All this created a layered film, where a myriad of different points of view meet and collide exactly as all the elements clash in the boat. When fishing, the man melts and at the same time fights with nature, with various fish and shellfish. The menacing seagulls swoop down to eat the remains of the animals. The machineries in the boat seem bombastic mechanisms which might be found at the gates of hell.
is not only visual, but it becomes first material and then philosophical. The film is therefore, at first sight, a purely perceptual, sensory experience, which wants to burst any good classical narrative rule in order to directly dialogue with the non-rules of underground cinema and the artistic avant-garde works. But after a more accurate view, and after a careful consideration, the film turns into a theoretical essay on the most elementary features of nature and on its inherent violence. The man in this context no longer has any significant role, as it happened in another great film-essay on primordial elements, Il Pianeta Azzurro (Italy, 1982) by Franco Piavoli. The sailors are the only figures in the background, brutalized and heavy, deformed in body and alienated in spirit from exhausting work. For about three-quarters of the film we see only portions of their bodies, and these shots are always blurry or misleading, as if the human contours resemble in every way to the elusive figures of birds, or the tortured and dismembered bodies of the fish fallen into the traps. Towards the end of the film then the fusion of man, machine and hellish nature becomes clear and absolute. The directors propose us a static shot, a sequence shot that lasts about ten minutes and which shows the inside of the cabin. In this case the GoPro was
In this threatening dark sea, nature blends in turn with the death and creates that famous chaos that
A scene from Lucien CastaingTaylor and VĂ¨rĂ¨na Paravel's Leviathan. Courtesy of Cinema Guild.
fixed right on the only television on board and films the bare and spartan next room. In the table placed in front of the television some sailors alternate themselves. One of them, with a fat body and a totally annulled facial expressiveness, stares at the TV and as a result looks straight into the camera eye and towards the viewer. The man seems mesmerized, motionless, as if he had been completely deprived of any glimmer of humanity and intelligence. Slowly, the sailorman begins to fall asleep, exhausted from the day of hellish work he had. This sequence, at
times almost comical, has the same meaning of the photographs with the fish in the biographies of the film’s website: man and nature collide and cancel each other in Leviathan, and end up to set aside the absolute annulment of the sense. In this sea which resembles the primordial soup, black as the night above it, the impacted and mixed elements form a one-off artwork, a cosmic magma that recalls the dawn of time, but which can also recall the Jung dream. Carl Jung himself wrote:
“The dream is the small hidden door that leads to the most hidden and intimate part of the soul, open on the original cosmic night that was soul long before there was any ego consciousness, and which will survive as a soul in all the products of the ego consciousness, since all ego consciousness is isolated and it knows the individual because it divides and separates and it sees only what has this relationship with this ego. The ego consciousness consists as well of constraints, even when it extends to the most distant stellar nebulae. Each consciousness divides: but with the dream we penetrate in the deeper, universal, true and eternal man, still immersed in the darkness of the early night when he was everything and everything was in him, in nature without any differentiation and of each “being ego.” From such a depth, which connects everything, the dream was born, in so far as childish, grotesque and abnormal it is.”1 The primordial night represented in Leviathan is also the last stage of an evolution (at the same time it’s an involution) of the material film and of the cinematographic medium. In this sense, the film can also be considered a zero degree, a hypothetical departure towards a new language that will detach itself from this perceptual magma. Anyway, the film, and in general the Sensory Etnographic Laboratory, has managed to attract the attention of the biggest festivals on the planet (Locarno, Toronto, Belfort, Berlin, Turin and others) and of the conventional cinema to a product that is in close contact 52
with the pure art cinema. Leviathan has reignited the discussion on the current boundaries of cinematographic viewing, and on the final result of the border between fiction and documentary, between art and commerce, and between the vanguard and the standardization.
1— Carl Gustav Jung, Wirklichkeit der Seele, 3rd ed., 1947, P. 49; traslated in Italian by Paolo Santarcangeli, La realtà dell’anima, Rome 1949, pp. 43 et seq.
A scene from Lucien CastaingTaylor and Vèrèna Paravel's Leviathan. Courtesy of Cinema Guild.
A scene from Lucien CastaingTaylor and Vèrèna Paravel's Leviathan. Courtesy of Cinema Guild.
Re-enactors Photographs by Jim Naughten Texts by Imperial War Museum Jim Naughten, and Mark Rappolt
Jim Naughten Pages 52â€”69
Every summer thousands of people from all over the world gather in a Kentish field and leave the present firmly behind. They step out of their routine daily lives and transform in to historical characters from the First and Second World Wars, often with such vigour and obsessive attention to detail that its hard to imagine them in contemporary settings. Taking on a different name, identity and sometimes even a different tongue, the role players re enact battles and drills from an imagined past. It is something more than acting, a collective fantasy played out on a massive scale. Jim Naughten Photographed against a plain background in a portable studio, the re-enactors seem to gaze beyond the viewer in to another time. Their uniforms and costumes are precise in their detail, but the artist confuses our perception of what we are seeing. The time and space are ambiguous and this disconcerting effect gives the viewer the feeling that they are looking at both the past and the present simultaneously. Naughten tells us nothing of his sitters;’ lives, nor does he express a view on their activities, but raises questions about collective perceptions of history and our own relationship with the past. Imperial War Museum
The Face out of Time ‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there,’ wrote the novelist L.P. Hartley back in 1953. He probably never saw a military re-enactment. Otherwise he might have noticed that the past is often happening in our own country, played out by the butchers and bakers from down the road, and with an obsessive approach to ensuring that they do things exactly the same. Where August Sander published Face of our Time (1929), 80 years later, Jim Naughten, capturing a broad cross-section of ages and genders, presents the face out of time. Naughten’s portraits, featuring costumes from both World Wars and beyond, document a group of people who balance a fetish for historical accuracy with the kind of appetite for fantasy that allows a person to take on the guise of someone else. And, of course, their collective attempts to keep history alive. What follows is a series of ‘action scenes’ that look like toned-down versions of Jake and Dinos Chapman’s Hell (2000) – although there’s no morality here – and objective portraits (you could almost be flicking through a catalogue of Tamiya military models – a sensation enhanced by the photographer’s use of post-production techniques) captioned only with details that describe nationality, unit and rank (but interestingly, given the fact that these portraits are, on one level, about people with a kink for history, rarely any precise dates). But if, as it seems, these people are what they wear (and look how wonderfully clean and well-kept that clothing is), then perhaps in that alone they stand out as icons for a contemporary age. One in which everything is surface, everyone can be a celebrity and everyone can belong to a tribe as long as they have the right hair and they’re wearing the right kind of clothes. Mark Rappolt
[p. 55] Evacuee in Mickey Mouse Gas Mask
[pp. 56–57] US Forces Advance
[p. 58] Panzerman 11th Panzer Division
[p. 59] British Infantryman
[p. 62] Red Cross Nurse
[p. 63] Soviet Cossack
[pp. 60–61] Pink Panther Desert Land Rover
[pp. 64–65] M3 Stuart Light Tank
[p. 66] Russian Soldier with Teligreika
[p. 67] Evacuee in Blue Coat
[pp. 68–69] US and German Forces Engage
Approximation to the West Photographs and text by The Cool Couple
The Cool Couple Pages 70â€”83
The Cool Couple
â€œMemory has been fully absorbed by its meticulous reconstitution. Its new vocation is to record; delegating to the archive the responsibility of remembering, it sheds its signs upon depositing them there, as a snake sheds its skin.â€? Pierre Nora In Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Memories, 1989
ation the West
Approximation to the West is an archive for the revival of instances from a forgotten past, through the collection and dissemination of findings, surveys and reflecting outlooks. It is structured in chapters in which the theme of each one is an investigation of the peculiar aspects of the cultural landscape and the artist’s role as a generator of narratives.
hospitals, churches and theatres; changing the toponymy of towns and forcing the subjected population to cede half of each building to a number of Cossacks occupants equal to that of the original inhabitants. Following the troops invasion there were in fact many civilians, refugees who fled from the Soviet Union in the 20s, political dissidents, Jews.
The object of research is the territory of the Mountain Community of Carnia, a suburban area located in western Friuli Venezia Giulia and bordering with Austria, characterized by an apparent absence of historic elements. The almost total absence of tourist facilities and an economy based on the timber industry have radically changed the landscape in the last decades. Today the region is entirely covered with dense conifer forests that have engulfed almost every valley.
At the end of the war, with the approach of the allied troops after the Nazi-fascist’s defeat, the Cossacks decided to flee, taking refuge in Austria. The widespread hope was to meet with British troops as they had fought with the British army at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution and many Cossacks general officers were awarded with honours by the Queen of England.
This apparently indecipherable is reinterpreted through the events that took place in Carnia at the end of World War II.
Free Republic of Carnia Kosakenland in Nord Italien Kazackaja Zemlya
The Allies, however, opted for a prisoners’ trade with Stalin, bringing together all the Cossacks and collaborators back in Soviet Union. In exchange, the trick was to obtain the western war prisoners of the Soviet dictator. Once repatriated, the Cossacks collaborators were exterminated by mass executions or sentenced to hard labor in Siberia. Stalin believed them to be, in fact, guilty of high treason.
These events, which took place at the dawn of the Italian Republic, point out from a different perIn the summer of 1944, during the Nazi occupation, spective the problem of identity, recalling seventy years of our country’s history, with its illusions and the local partisans founded in Carnia the most extensive and durable-free zone, which later became utopias, defeats, failures, fluctuations between reality and social imaginary. the first democratic government in Unified Italy. The Free Republic of Carnia enacted a constitution By adopting an archaeological and investigative which – according to different voices – was then used as an outline for the drafting of the Constitution practice through the use of residues, representations and ephemeral objects, Approximation to the West of the Italian Republic. serves as a political strategy that tries to break into forgotten passages of history, transforming them The end of the democratic experience is marked into reactive substances capable of opening new by the arrival of 20,000 Cossacks collaborators perspectives for reading the state of things. who fled from the Soviet Union because they were persecuted by the communist regime and sided Finally, the approach to the cultural landscape the Axis troops in 1941. The hope to reconquer implies a comparison, not only with the history of and liberate their lands pushed them to enter into a formal agreement with the Third Reich, according the Italian landscape photography, but with the same meaning of today photographic device’s usage. to which, hadn’t been possible to regain their Approximation to the West offers a reinterpretahomeland, Adolf Hitler would have assigned a part tion to the history of landscape representation as of Nazi ruled territory to the reconstitution of the Cossacks’ uses and customs. The promised land in generating hierarchies of space visibility, investigating artistic and collective practices of of the Cossacks was soon identified in Carnia, the imaginary’s fruitions. which was renamed Kosakenland in Nord Italien (Kazackaja Zemlya in Russian). The Cossacks settled there, setting up schools, 74
The Cool Couple
[p. 74] The residence of general Krasnov, Verzegnis, 2013
[p. 75] The residence of general Krasnov, Verzegnis, 2013
[p. 76] Escape (hood), Tolmezzo #001, 2013
[p. 77] View of the But valley, Sutrio
[p. 76] German reprisal, Forni di Sotto #001, 2014
[p. 78] Gesture #001, 2014
[p. 79] A group of cossacks studies a map, no date, no place
[p. 80] Stereographic map, 1943
[p. 82] Cossack boots, Arta Terme #001, 2013
[p. 81] Untitled #3D, 2013
[p. 83] Cossack painting, Tolmezzo #004
[p. 82] Cossack saddle, Arta Terme #002, 2013
By Chiara Fanetti and Salvatore Vitale
Yann Mingard — Deposit
Building a legacy
All images courtesy of Fotomuseum Winterthur
A journey to the places which preserve our memory, our identity, as well as our legacy – not just the genetic one. The archive of a planet and of a species enshrined in the banks of the new millennium. ‘Control’ and ‘cataloguing’ are issues that Yann Mingard had already been dealing with in his project East of a new Eden, which he set up some years ago together with the photographer Alban Kakulya. This above said documentary was focused on the new Eastern European borders. Topicality has provided inspiration again for Yann Mingard’s latest project, Deposit, as his attention was drawn to the more and more widespread presence – both in Switzerland and at international level – of veritable storehouses, or ‘banks’, which do preserve material. Especially biological material. After a long time spent researching into this topic, Mingard selected four main areas of interest: plant life, animal life, mankind, data – categories of both matter and material which are stored in a single, safe place in order to be preserved, catalogued, protected and documented. Within the four chosen sections, the photographer singled out the most representative repositories, totalling 25 locations. Mingard managed to access 21 of these, while the remaining 4 either rejected or never replied to his
survey requests. Out of these 21 deposits, the first one (which prompted Mingard to start his research) is the Svalbard Global Seeds Vault, on the island of Spitsbergen, 1,300 km from the North Pole. A remote place, far away from the rest of the world, where all of our planet’s seeds are stored in order to create a fund, preserving the Earth’s botanic legacy. ‘I was struck by one aspect, namely that ex-situ conservation sites are isolated from any natural context. As an example, the seeds that are stored in this facility are preserved within aluminium bags inside plastic containers, which are stored in a bunker located approximately under 120 meters of permafrost, on an island that has got 170 species of plants and flowers on its own’, Mingard told us. A logistic situation which – as the photographer’s images show very well – keeps highlighting humanity’s estrangement from nature, instead of instilling thoughts of harmony between us and the environment. The site in Spitsbergen which is shown in the pictures doesn’t look to have been created with the aim of providing genuine protection
to the world’s plant life surrounding us, in order to safeguard it. The perception we get is much more unsettling, especially because of the site’s inaccessibility. As it does not only just lie in an extreme and isolated position, but it is also closed to the public. Still, the world’s heritage should be put in a condition so as to be shared. It ought to be “public”. ‘Two very important topics in my last project, Deposit, actually are: wondering about who owns and is going to own these legacies (the public or the private sector?) and observing how a certain type of legacy is being conserved (in situ or ex situ?)’, Mingard said, and added ‘as an example, this facility gets 75% of its funding by the governments whose plant seeds of the species existing within their territory are deposited there. The remaining 25% is delivered by foundations or companies such as Syngenta, DuPont/Pioneer Hi-Bred, Rockfeller, Bill & Melinda Gates’. Being, respectively: a multinational company headquartered in Basel which produces agricultural chemicals and seeds; the largest U.S. producer of hybrid seeds for agriculture; two family names which need no introduction. Why should they be so committed towards preservation? ‘Fostered by a nearly obsessive attitude, lots of efforts and resources are increasingly being dedicated to the conservation and storage of our legacy. I guess we could describe it as a mix of fear and wish to be in control. Let me remind you that the West has also been collecting resources from the South of the world; furthermore, since the era of colonialism, the West has owned most banks and repositories. As a consequence of the crises hitting Europe and the United States, we have witnessed a change in the power relations between countries, and the development of other economic powers (especially in Asia): the Western world is giving the impression of fearing that it might be deprived of this kind of wealth’.
Mingard’s project Deposit was developed from 2009 to 2013, and the crisis clearly is an important element to place the facilities which he visited and photographed in context: ‘the still ongoing economic crisis has determined widespread budget cuts made by States to scientific disciplines and research funding. At the same time, companies and enterprises have understood the economic potential of these new kinds of research and banks. What is really disquieting is that neither legal acts nor ethical rules are able to keep up with the very fast evolution of biotechnologies and the growing interest of multinational corporations in this industry. The next years will be fundamental to set policies and issue laws addressing these utmost controversial issues’. Were all of these repositories created to preserve our identity and that of our planet or are they new banks which do not store money but different types of genetic or information technology data? Are countries uniting to leave something to our future generations or are they hoarding a new kind of goods to be sold or exchanged? According to Mingard’s opinion, this is all part of the time we are living in: ‘we are in a period of transition, when filing and collecting belong to our Zeitgeist. Let us think about all what concerns biotechnologies or genetic research. Sperm donation or the conservation and privatization of stem cells, too. Or global warming, which prompts scientists to work hard in order to safeguard extinguishing plant and animal life.’ Mingard dealt with these topics especially in the ‘Humans’ section, and he did it by means of six locations, which are tackling issues ranging from privatisation of the health system, through ownership of living and organic materials taken by private companies, to eugenetics and so on: ‘I also tried to unveil the drifts of conservation ventures, showing businesses such as KrioRus, a company
that offers long-term conservation of dead human bodies in liquid nitrogen. This is not just about eugenetics: this is getting nearer to the cyborg and science-fiction world.’ Even the names of some of these facilities seem to pop out from a science-fiction novel: Frozen Arc, Doomsday Vault, Swiss Fort Knox, etc. ‘I talked about it with Lars Willumeit (editor and consultant for many prestigious magazines and institutions, Ed.) and we wrote down a list of keywords, a sort of glossary which turned out to be central to the book and project Deposit. Basing on these recurrent keywords in the locations I was interested in, I could develop a photographic path. After that, I involved some writers and external observers, inviting them to go into, compare and extend the issue of collecting and storing.’ Recurrent names and keywords which in turn recall further lexemes: Apocalypse, fear, claustrophobia, control, crisis, Genesis, and much more. All of these words evoke an esthetical feature which is very continual throughout the project Deposit. ‘One of the reasons why the photos in it are so dark is because these locations are sealed up, closed, switched off and frequently subterranean. Therefore, I depicted them just as they are every day. As far as still life pictures are concerned, the idea was that of showing what is being conserved, isolating it on a black background, taking it out of its context, basically applying the same method used for ex-situ conservation tasks in these storage areas. The photographs which show walls, instead, were placed right at the end of each chapter of the book in order to emphasize this sensation of something closed, inaccessible, claustrophobic, which is once more recalling the issues of fear and control we were talking about before.’ Is it a coincidence that different kinds of these new repositories are to be found right in Switzerland, the land of banks and bank secrecy? ‘It is certainly
not fortuitous that many of these data centres have been founded in Switzerland. Maybe in the future we will be a market-leading country in this business. Lots of companies or private customers leave the U.S. to deposit their digital archives in Switzerland and the Patriot Act, Edward Snowden and the NSA scandals have been promoting this move towards other countries. I managed to visit the Swiss Fort Knox in Saarnen. This bunker was built by the Swiss Army back in 1946 for military aviation purposes, and then it was transformed into a data centre in 1993. It is connected by means of fibre-optic communication to another bunker located 10 km from it, Swiss Fort Knox II, which also belongs to the Army. In Switzerland there are over 26,000 thousand bunkers, and some of them were put on sale by military bodies, so they can be purchased. Another company offering data conservation services is located in Genève: Safe Host. 10 thousand square metres of storing surface, which add to further 18 thousand square metres, not far from Genève. The Future Health BioBank SA was founded in Châtel-St-Denis, in 2012. It is one of the many subsidiaries of the multinational corporation specializing in the preservation of umbilical-cord-derived stem cells, baby teeth and even of liposuction fat. The private stem cells bank, the Swiss Stem Cells, is located in Lugano, not far from the Italian border – it is not coincidental that it was founded here in 2005: at that time, Italy’s legislation still prohibited conserving umbilical cords for private uses. As a consequence, Italian families could turn to SSC, which was easily reachable.’ Maybe Switzerland’s banking establishment and the Confederation’s traditional confidentiality will bring Switzerland to focus on these new kinds of – organic or information technology – deposits, also considering the attacks which were inflicted by some countries to bank secrecy not too long ago.
[p. 88] Yann Mingard Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Arctic Svalbard Archipelago, Norway, 2009 Ex situ preservation of food-crop seeds. 1,5 million seeds can be preserved in this room. Inkjet print, 55.4 x 70 cm © Yann Mingard
[p. 89] Yann Mingard Mount10, known as “The Swiss Fort Knox,” Saanen-Gstaad, Switzerland, 2010 Main corridor. Inkjet print, 70 x 55.4 cm © Yann Mingard
[p. 88] Yann Mingard EBI, The European Bioinformatics Institute, near Cambridge, United Kingdom, 2013 This seemingly empty test-tube contains Shakespeare’s sonnets, a short audio passage of a Martin Luther King speech, a jpeg photo and a copy of an article from 1953 by Crick and Watson describing the structure of DNA. This information is encoded and stored in synthesised DNA form. Inkjet print, 42 x 33.2 cm © Yann Mingard
[p. 92] Yann Mingard KrioRus, Alabushevo, near Moscow, Russia, 2010 This fibreglass vat is for the cryopreservation of human bodies or brains. A transparent vat is being developed to allow families to gather in the presence of the deceased, once the body has been frozen. Inkjet print, 55.4 x 70 cm © Yann Mingard
[p. 96] Yann Mingard Laboratory of Tropical Crop Improvement, Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, 2010 Cryopreservation vat. Inkjet print, 70 x 55.4 cm © Yann Mingard
Photographs by Yann Mingard
[pp. 90–91] Yann Mingard The French Horse and Riding Institute, Landivisiau, France, 2011 National Stud Farm. Dummy mare for harvesting stallion sperm. Inkjet print, 55.4 x 70 cm © Yann Mingard
[p. 93] Yann Mingard Bahnhof.se, “Pionen”, High security computer centre, Stockholm, Sweden, 2011 Main room hewn into the rock. Inkjet print, 70 x 55.4 cm © Yann Mingard
[p. 92] Yann Mingard CRYOS International, Aarhus, Denmark, 2010 Private human sperm bank. Semen straw ready for freezing in liquid nitrogen. Inkjet print, 42 x 33.2 cm © Yann Mingard
[p. 96] Yann Mingard Lenin’s Mausoleum, Red Square, Moscow, Russia, 2010 The embalmed body of Lenin has been on display in this mausoleum since his death in 1924. His brain was first removed and cut into 30 000 slices, preserved at the Brain Institute, which was specially founded to study the “genius of Lenin”. Inkjet print, 55.4 x 70 cm © Yann Mingard
[pp. 94–95] Yann Mingard Creavia, Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier, France, 2011 Bull sperm bank. Laboratory. Inkjet print, 55.4 x 70 cm © Yann Mingard
Yann Mingard Pages 87—97 [p. 97] Yann Mingard Swiss National Stud Farm, Avenches, Switzerland, 2011 Castration of a young stallion. Inkjet print, 70 x 55.4 cm © Yann Mingard
Imagination as document by Fabio Barile
Imagination as Document
When I first began to devote myself to photography, I immediately realized that my main concern was with the inaccessible and invisible, either for the human eye or for an instrument of visualization such as photography. In a world such as ours, where eyesight is paraIn the ‘40s, nuclear emulsions were developed, mount, visualization has a key role in the process employed first in the study of cosmic rays, and later of knowledge acquisition: “nothing is real unless in atomic collisions in particle accelerators. These observed” says John Gribbin. The “photographic” emulsions allowed the recording and study of submethod as tool of knowledge is that which best fits atomic particles, and it is thanks to them that in our way of understanding the world, as it is a fun- 1947 the Pion was observed for the first time. damental mode of observation, which is one of the Rosalind Franklin and her colleagues at King’s tenets of the modern scientific method. College, London, in 1952 realized the famous Photo If dogs had evolved instead of us, photography 51, the first representative image of DNA. The folwould have been useless to them, and some kind lowing year this image would allow Watson and of “odourography” would have been developed Crick to realize the first model of the double helix to understand the world. “Nothing is real unless structure of the molecule. smelled”, some of them would have said. The image was created with x-ray crystalSince the invention of the darkroom, science lography, a technique that employed the diffrachas always “imagined” the world, in the very tion created by x-rays when they pass through a sense of making it as image, first only projected, crystal, enabling, by so doing, the calculation of later fixed on a physical support. It thus created a given substance’s molecular structure – a techa deep relationship between thought and theory nique still in use nowadays. on one side, and visual display of the events of The above cases are just a few powerful examnature on the other. ples of the role that photography has in scientific In 1896 Henry Becquerel, while studying the research, when it is not employed as a window to phosphorescence of uranium salts, accidentally a reality that is observable by eyesight, but as an discovered their spontaneous radioactivity: the amplifier of it, expanding and deepening the reality salts impressed photographic plates without expo- which can be observed beyond the biological limit sure to light. of the human eye.
Papers of M.H.F. Wilkins: glass slides of x-ray diffraction photographs of DNA and RNA. Courtesy of: King’s College London Archives
Bubble Chamber Events. Courtesy of Fermilab, Illinois
Daniel Gordon, Apple, 2013 — from the series “The Green Line” (2012–present)
For me, the attraction of the knotty relationship between photography and science lies in the capacity of scientists to literally shatter the common way of making and thinking images: they create new forms of “imagination” in a field that has nothing to do with photography, but at the same time produce new visual languages, knowledge, technology, and culture. Then I ask myself: are the so-called creative fields really the place where we can find creativity? And is photography more a means of expression or an instrument of observation? I imagine a hypothetical discussion upon these issues in the style of Woody Allen’s Melinda & Melinda opening scene. Here four friends, sitting around a table in a restaurant, discuss their opposing views of life, uncertain whether it is tragic or comic. 102
Information and mutation Browsing the virtual and paper pages of contemporary photography magazines, it is immediately evident that digitalization is bringing new life to photography, highlighting the natural “evolutionary” drive that science and technology have always exerted on art. If we want an example, we can simply think of the relationship between Einstein’s relativity and Picasso’s cubism. In this case, what we see is a common process of Modern Art, which is the metamorphosis of information: a process of reimagination in which the artist reworks and rethinks the source material, producing an output which is pure sensation of the raw material from which it all began. Indeed, contemporary photography evokes the complexity of today’s world employing the transliteration of information. In different combinations, information change and shift between analogical and
Imagination as Document
An illustration from Jouffret's Traité élémentaire de géométrie à quatre dimensions (1903). The book, which influenced Picasso, was given to him by Princet. Source: Wikipedia
Asger Carlsen, from the series “Hester” Courtesy of the artist and V1 Gallery
Infotography About a month ago I came across the news that scientists have built a powerful simulation that recreates a portion of our universe. It is a cube whose side measures 350 million light years. The simulation starts from the conditions present soon after the Big Bang and proceeds onwards to the present day. This digital, bi- and three-dimensional reality, creating a simulation has been created with the big data we superimposition of levels in which it is difficult, if not possess on our universe with the aim of recreating impossible, to define where the mutations actually and observing it. The project is called illustris-project.org. The result is breathtaking: a universe that is happen in the shift from one media to the other. The works of Asger Carlsen and Daniel Gordon very similar to the one that we can observe for real, may serve to illustrate the case. In the work Hester, and images of galaxies which are impossible to tell Carlsen establishes a fictitious cohabitation between apart from real ones. biological and informatical mutation, making their Let’s be precise, it is not a graphic representation boundaries indeterminable. In Gordon’s works, of the universe that can be observed, the galaxies information shifts from a bi-dimensional to a three- have been created within the simulation. It is as if a dimensional reality and vice versa, continuously model of how our planet how was four billion years ago has been created, and after the necessary time of negating its nature. What happens in this type of photography is calculation what emerged was our civilization (the a mutation of information. During several steps, rendering of the universe took some 19,000 hrs). In information is moved, substituted, deformed, dete- the era of big data and big calculators, simulations riorated, thus the process of metamorphosis shifts provide us with an observable reality employed to from an action of digestion and reinterpretation to verify theories, especially to understand phenomena that in nature are yet to be observed, such as dark one of accumulation of mutation. Information, alongside with the characteristics matter and dark energy. Simulations do now what photography has of the physical media by which it is transported and transmitted (hard disk, book, stone, tape, etc...) always done with science: they help us to see that acquires, then, an outstanding value in the linguis- which ‘naturally’ we are unable to see. By so doing, they create an era in which the acquisition and tic progress of photography. analysis of data work as a trigger for new virtual/ real observations where the single bit substitutes the photon as light carrier. 103
Only God Can Judge Me Photographs and text by Matthieu Gafsou
Matthieu Gafsou Pages 102â€”123
Only God 104
Inspired by the writings of Antonin Artaud and William T. Vollman, Matthieu Gafsou seeks to “find poetry in the misery of the world”. He chose as his subject the Lausanne drug scene, “a tragic form of exoticism next door”, and managed to create an original work on an otherwise trivialized subject.
The project assembles several themes tackled through distinct formal registers. Drugs and accessories are reproduced as consumer products, close-up against uniform backgrounds. Photographed against a black background, with carefully applied lighting effects, the portraits of drug addicts are distinguished by their semi-pictorial treatment, inspired by the tradition of portraiture. The places where addicts meet and consume drugs are particularly elaborate, to the point of creating nocturnal landscapes that evoke artificial paradises. And the collection is completed by semi-abstract images, allegories of the ability of drugs to transcend reality. By developing a rich and varied visual language mixing different levels of representation and interpretation, Matthieu Gafsou manages to create a genuine sense experience.
The law on narcotics places in the hands of the inspector-usurper of public health the right to have control over human suffering; it is a pretension peculiar to modern medicine to try to dictate to the individual conscience. All the bleatings of the official charter are powerless against this phenomenon of conscience: namely, that I am the master of my pain, even than of my death.
Can Judge Me Antonin Artaud, Selected Writings English translation by Helen Weaver, © 1976 University of California Press, Oakland
When – after twenty years of doubts and revisions – Charles Darwin ultimately decided in 1859 to publish his groundbreaking On the Origin of Species, the world had already been accelerating. Darwin’s discovery became a crowning argument for the changes taking place, although it did not refer to them directly. However, it was soon embraced as a fitting metaphor of the upcoming times. At its core was the notion of constant change being inherent in nature. In the age of modernity, it was precisely change that was to serve as an imperative, as it were, of all action, and obeying it, the human being fought a struggle for the ultimate emancipation of the natural world, so that he could stand level with it, or even higher. Another important factor contributing to the success of Darwin’s theory was the idea that nature could be decoded, divided into particles, and made to fit a universal pattern. This empiricism proved highly effective during the successive attempts to tame the world. The emergence of capitalist industry with its mass production and growing secularisation meant that there were more and more areas to bring under control. Both elements, though not only them, removed obstacles on the path of progress, so eagerly awaited. The transformation would not have happened without support from science, which replaced the weakening religion and offered a persuasive example of the power of the human mind. Miracles were no longer a divine domain, but rather a class of man’s achievements. Providing a key for understanding the species selection and the origination processes, which Darwin clearly exemplified. Ironically, while becoming the foundation of a new world, Darwin’s theory itself was adapted, and subjected to the changes necessary to make it fit with the overall narrative. Cartoons of Darwin as an ape-man became as iconic as human evolution charts or the species pyramid with man at the top. It is worth remembering at this point that the pyramid is a symbol of divinity. In the course of its [p. 127] Anna Orłowska, Active, architectural Beehives made by a bee-keepers out of wood and various found objects in the south-west area of Poland.
popularisation, evolution acquired a hierarchical form that left no doubts about man’s domination. Not only did it offer a convenient alibi for the subjugation of nature but also introduced ladders within human society. It became a weapon for colonialism and racism as well as for the power struggle of the privileged classes in the West. One example of that is eugenics, proposed by Darwin’s cousin – the gentleman and inventor Francis Galton. Famous for inventing a method of identifying suspects by their fingerprints, Galton, like many before him, studied the possibility of improving the quality and effectiveness of the nascent society. Almost like in Mendeville’s Fable of the Bees, he suggested that people be kept strictly within the roles that fate had assigned them. He postulated recognising the blue-blooded elites as an example of a higher stage of evolution, as opposed to the lower, poorer classes, living in less favourable conditions. In his research, he used an invention that had already become an artefact of the new era: photography. Thus the two talismans of the 19th century became interwoven. Their marriage resulted in a series of composite portraits, where images of multiple representatives of a given social group were superimposed to discern common traits. Thus Galton composed portraits of criminals, aristocratic ladies, and military men, believing, almost idealistically, that photography would not only highlight shared characteristics but actually reveal the group’s essential nature. This was to
facilitate segregation and prevention, so that the best remained with the best and the future criminals were identified on the basis of predispositions recognised in advance. In his utopian scenario, science might stimulate the process of natural selection.
social rituals such as the custom of carrying your loved ones’ photos in your wallet, in the identificational regime to which citizens succumb when their faces are obligatorily photographed, or in the war photographer’s desire to be on the front line. The need to zoom in, to get as close to the body as possible, is inherently inscribed in photographic practice.
At the time when Darwin was publishing On the Origin of Species, photography had already established itself in the vanguard of progress. And like evolution, it suffered from a kind of erosion, particularly often encountered with facts. These symptoms can already be observed in Galton’s work. The idea was that the use of photography would reduce the cognitive distance and equate “to see” with “to know”. It could not be otherwise if the camera had been touted since its very inception as a device that was free from human quirks such as imprecision or fatigue. The photographic camera – a technological miracle – was perceived as a precise speculum that allowed the user to explore the world by sampling its different elements for a catalogue of visual responses. The possibility of creating mechanical reproductions contributed actively to the process of man’s emancipation from nature. That is why Daguerre’s invention too should be considered as one of the building blocks of modernity and, at the same time, the first attribute of the new hierarchy. Man was now able to change the optics of his vision of the world, to go beyond the constraints of the here-and-now. Thanks to visual representations, the experience of cognition and participation could be prolonged and extended. It has to be admitted that photography was perfectly in tune with the adopted metaphor of evolution. The dominant medium today, it has been subject to constant changes, which can be described with epithets like “faster”, “sharper”, “higher”, “more precise” and so on. The very act of picture taking is a means of self-transformation, and archives, when put in circulation, can produce sentimental panoramas, depicting changes in urban and rural landscapes, social and generational patterns, or fashions. As the ever-increasing atlas of images is browsed, a certain paradox emerges. Namely, besides nostalgia, photographs also inspire a sense of loss and transience, yet they were supposed to arrest the flow of time and guarantee continued intimacy with what they represented. Intimacy was one of the earliest promises made by photography. The power of this obligation is evident not only in 130
At the same time, due to photography’s scientific origin, we should consider another of its aspects, one that is also a vestige of our emancipation from, and subjugation of, nature. It would be that of larger scale, originally formulated by Alphonse Bertillon, who took up the task of organising thousands of photographs. Rather particular ones, as they belonged to the Paris militia, who sought to use them to identify suspects. The greatness of Bertillon, a disciple of August Comte, was in this case in the way he looked at them – comprehensively, reducing all representations to a single objective: finding the arrested man’s image. Like Darwin, Bertillon was interested in building an algorithm, in operating holistically. Thus he can be defined as a prototype observer, perceiving photography as a tool that offers certain criteria and makes it possible to apply them to more than one person or human artefact. Bertillon’s stance for observation coincides with man’s emancipation from the natural world. After creating a photographic inventory of nature, man turned primarily towards the study and observation of his own species, pursuing the issue of social progress; of the best fulfilment of the criteria of biopower: efficiency, productiveness, discipline, and reproduction. It would be interesting at this point to ask about progress itself, which has found unique support in the theory of evolution and photography. After Paul Virilio, we can say that it has become an end unto itself, losing from sight the questions that allowed it to effect the successive transgressions, resulting in man’s liberation from the constraints of nature. Virilio’s critique of contemporary progress points to aggressive competition, virtually military wrestling, between research centres, states, and the manufacturers of machines. The point is no longer to create something new – such as photography – but only to modernise what already exists: another version for next year, a marketing-impoverished evolution. The imperative of change continues to apply, but has been reduced to a kind of autotelic exercise.
The critique concerns also a perceived lack of distance, so important in discoveries and pattern decoding. The nature and pace of the changes prevent a broader horizon, a perspective beyond the next wave of the seasonal revolution. Thus, again, there is potential for sentiment. We build ever more precise looking glasses, but it has been more and more difficult to select a single point we would like to observe. The issue is not necessarily the perversion of progress itself, but the impossibility of choosing which way to look.
Photography also seems to be regaining its distance today, increasingly drawing on its empirical background, allowing it to solve the issue of intimacy. This makes photography similar to scholarly reflection on a large collection of data, for which a common denominator is sought. Yann Mingard’s Deposit is doubtless an example of a work that uses photography as almost a theoretical tool. The artist takes the viewer to the immediate backstage of the academic discourse of survival, finding a place for photography in it. The successive images show sites where various kinds of biological samples and organic materials are preserved and stored. Thus Mingard reveals to the viewer a horizon of events that go beyond the wave of feigned change – the fragmentariness that haunts our age. The collected objects lack any emblems that would indicate the time of their making or assembly. We can only guess that they come from the 20th and 21st centuries, as if someone had come up with the idea of creating a collection of the artefacts of our civilisation. Mingard’s archaeological approach provides an insight into what is usually a hardly noticeable scale of human activity. This is a very specific index, comprising four chapters: Plants, Animals, People, and Data. Silos where, like in a futuristic ark, plant seeds are collected; freezers in which human brains are stored; shelters that are to survive our end, serving as storage for toxic waste. All this reveals the breadth of progress, but does not point to any single way. The separate paths all lead, however, to potential transgression – humans with their surroundings, the nature they have subjugated, search for ways of merging with technology.
It is also worth reflecting on why Darwin waited twenty years before publishing his achievements. The time allowed him to overcome all doubts and precisely analyse his theory so that to have scientific certainty, confirmed by the successive cases. Theory is the culmination of research, not something dubious and flimsy, not just one of the possibilities, but something that guarantees verifiability. Among the components of a theory there must be: time, scepticism, and distance to process long sequences of data. In everyday declension, the concept of theory quickly erodes, one of the consequences of which for Darwin’s work will be a debate that provides for free choice between the evolution theory and creationism.
It is an open question whether this quest provides any consolation. There is something in these images – full of industrial concrete and the faint glow of fluorescent lamps – that brings back a sense of nostalgia and loss. Now, however, on a different level, not of personal reminiscences, but accompanied by the general reflection that Mingard’s archives of biopower, confined in their airtight sarcophaguses, will crumble with time anyway. Viewing the different elements of the colYann Mingard, Laboratory of Tropical Crop Improvement, Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, 2010 In vitro cultivation of banana plants over a period of 30 to 45 days. Inkjet print, 42 x 33.2 cm © Yann Mingard
lection that the artist has amassed during four years of work, we can realise the hugeness of the task of cataloguing of these particular, survival-serving products – prostheses of our civilisation. As a result, Deposit could be a footnote to Douwe Draaisma’s Metaphors of Memory, where the author gives an account of the historically changing concepts of memory, determined by the successive inventions and discoveries. The book leads to the sceptical conclusion that no artefact will remember for us. Draaisma’s description of progress from the perspective of memory media points also to a lack of guarantee that the various technologies will last, as older ones are replaced by the newer, better suited to today’s capabilities. Evolution continues in this case too. We are left to ask the question invited by the project’s very title: for whom is this deposit made?
invisibility, and it is investigated from all angles here. We see a black hole as an unphotographable object; an invisible tank of Swedish design; a series of portraits of invisible characters from Hollywood sci-fi flicks; a remote nursing home for the mentally disabled; global evidence of the mass disappearance of honeybees; or, finally, a unicorn skeleton. The investigation is far-fetched, the artist leading the viewer from facts, through half-truths, to phantasmagorias, creating a holistic collection. All these threads are bound together by two dark works: a small NASA map of global light pollution and an image of the night sky in the Dark Sky Park in the Izerskie Mountains. These two extremities aptly describe the changes occurring since the second Promethean revolution, when man learned to control electricity, crossing the barrier of night time, reserved, in the natural cycle of animal life, for rest and lack of production. The growth of industry and the resulting cult of efficiency have erased the border between day and night. Night has been illuminated, marking another victory for man. Another conclusion that can be drawn from the images provided by Orłowska concerns mechanical optics itself: the constant possibility of observation,
Another example of a serial work informed by so wide a research perspective is Anna Orłowska’s visual investigation. Its aim is to showcase a contemporary cultural trope that might seem to have been repressed or made obsolete, its absence one of the achievements of emancipation. This trope is Jim Naughten, Re-enactors
initiated by photography. The reverse of this potential are solutions that make it possible to hide away from panoptical vision. In the case of a tank, this will be the strategy of military adaptation, and when the artist presents a model of the nursing home, it will be a social taboo-dictated response to separate the abnormal like in 19th-century asylums. Orłowska thus points to a range of socio-cultural strategies concerned with camouflage and efforts to avoid being seen, not to say identified. There is also room for mystery here, since times immemorial associated with darkness, the unknown. Consequently, the collection includes examples of the magic of David Copperfield or images alluding to the unexplained disappearance of honeybees.
protagonists can look at themselves in the historical materials, helping them to improve their performance. If these images were to be entrenched in the collective imagination, they could pave the way for interesting consequences. Such as the suggestion of parallel periods of time, besides the present – those already photographed can be viewed and embodied/re-enacted. Accordingly, we might venture to say that photography disrupts the classical division of time between the past, present and future. In Naughten, the former two merge by courtesy of his masterly grasp of the adopted means of expression. Like in Michael Haneke’s White Ribbon, the faces seem definitely anachronistic. The plain background of a portable studio, bringing to mind that used by Richard Avedon, brings the figures into focus, objectivizing them. It also plays the role of a screen, cutting them off from the attention-diverting scenery that might betray the set-up. The British artist proceeds similarly with military vehicles, making an exception, seemingly, only for the battle scene. But the panoramic image, its scale reminiscent of great battle paintings, also reveals the artist’s guiding hand, evident, for example, in the precise composition. As a result, the re-enacters on the beach have been photographed in all possible military poses, creating a kind of index of mimetic gestures.
Ultimately, the project is also subversive and selfreferential, highlighting photography’s entanglement with the notions of visibility and representation. Importantly, and similarly to Mingard, Orłowska keeps her distance, allowing the spectator to take in the whole view. Thus the work structurally resembles a patchwork or Darwin’s evolutionary tree rather than a linear narrative. As a result, the viewer gets a chance to decide for himself what kind of changes are depicted here and where they seem to be leading. Jim Naughten is likewise preoccupied with distance in his series Re-enactors. Whereas in the previous cases the main subject of artistic observation were changes dictated by technological progress, Naughten studies the behaviour of a specific group and their shared experiences. His typologising series presents portraits of persons who impersonate characters from the fronts of WWI and WWII at an annual convention. Based on mutual agreement, for the duration of the event they virtually become someone else, a particular case of embodiment. Re-enactors mark two changes. The first of those can be problematic – it is the practice of wearing military uniforms which, particularly the Nazi ones, inevitably make one think of war crimes. It is not even a matter of wearing them as of bringing these content-heavy emblems down to the level of pop culture items, of treating them as digested and blunted signs. The second change concerns photography itself and the image of war mediated by it in the public domain. Re-enactment is a mimetic act, a sort of mirror reflection. The artist’s
The phenomenon of re-enactment, taken up by Naughten, is a unique issue. It is not limited to the reconstruction of historical events, but has a much broader significance that echoes the changes occurring in the optics of contemporaneity. The past – if it has been recorded – can be re-enacted, replayed. It is a development of the mobility of representation that photography had offered researchers, changing the modalities of their interaction with the research subjects. Today this process has acquired a new shape, in a virtually archaeological gesture, it is possible not only to reconstruct WWII-era military uniforms and battle scenes with utmost precision, but also – by courtesy of diverse (panoptical might be a more fitting word) techniques of observation – to monitor natural disasters, identify faces, view ruined buildings or pan entire neighbourhoods. Re-enactment can also be considered as another emancipatory breakthrough, as it carries the possibility of reconstructing fragments of the past, whether out of fascination or a desire to understand, and thus also of a lesson for the future. 135
Darwin’s evolution theory soon ceased to be his. Evolution became a commonly accepted concept, often construed in terms far detached from its author’s intentions. It served as a description of progressive change towards the better, more effective, better suited, more complex. Being in itself an example and field of experimentation for change, photography has on numerous occasions discoursed with it. It is also possible that photography actually contributes to the frequency of changes. For some of the photographers featured in this issue of YET, it can also aim at exploring change itself, thus free-
ing itself from the ‘arms race’ of progress. Instead, through scholarly distance, it can reveal the scope of changes and raise questions about their direction.
[p. 130] Anna Orłowska, The Statue of Liberty. One of the most heavily photographed structures in the world. In 1983 illusionist David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty disappear, breaking the worlds record in the biggest object that has ever been made invisible by a magical trick. Copperfield used a gigantic curtain to hide the view of the statue from the audience sitting on a moving platform. Then the reflectors which were lighting the statue were turned off and before curtain was unveiled – the platform was rotated into different direction exposing just an empty spot on the water.
[p. 131] Anna Orłowska, A nursing home for mentally disabled boys and men in a former hunting castle built by Count Andrzej Renard in 1856. It is situated five km away from the town of Zawadzkie, Poland, surrounded by vast forest areas, which were once used as a hunting park. Among the held animals there were moufflons, the last one of which was hunted in the nearby grassland areas in 1950. 3D model of the castle reconstructed and modeled from the photographs. [p. 134] Anna Orłowska, Sky over Dark Sky Preserve in the Izerskie Mountains in Poland – one of the three preserves of its kind in Europe. [p. 134] Anna Orłowska, Light pollution map by NASA.
The Veil of the Invisible Photographs and text by Reiner Riedler
Reiner Riedler Pages 136â€”149
The Veil of the 138
Unreal representations of faces and bodies appear behind a dark veil. Eyes are usually closed; faces release an unusual calmness and intensity. This is not the usual classic photographic portrait but the imprint of human bodies through the effect of the heat. It isn’t light, but traces of sweat that are collected on a cotton cloth and transformed, through a chemical process, into a direct physical contact between subject and its representation. It’s neither a photograph nor a frame. Models are wrapped into a photosensitive cloth that reacts to sweat by changing its colour, which is – at a later stage – transformed into a grey scale. The process resembles photography, but it is more like a digital imprint in black and white. The negative is the cotton cloth, the positive is a modern pigment print.
Preceded by a long experimentation phase, this technique has given the artist the opportunity to create self portraits and portraits. The actual process involve a sauna or sport session so that the sweaty bodies can lay on their back while the artist stretches the photosensitive cloth using a dedicated structure that will be laid onto or underneath the bodies. The artist creates the image by applying pressure with his hands. Initially invisible, the imprint will dry and then will be photographed. The fabric’ structure recalls the photographic film grain.
This work was made possible thanks to a chemical that is able to make sweat visible, created by EMFT institute in Munich.
The image only appears during the processing phase even though subjects remain unrecognisable, the final result is peculiar and obsolete, some kind of a shadow of the model rather than a portrait. The final result gives the viewer the impression that – thanks to some kind of transformation – the artist is capable to reveal the inner spirit of each represented subject.
Untitled Photographs and text by Christiane Seiffert
Christiane Seiffert Pages 150â€”161
On one side, a postcard representing: a street scene, a monument, an urban landscape, flowers or animals — bird, dog, deer — on the other side, a picture where the artist is on stage to imitate what’s on the card. Trying to show the personality of what she sees in these things, Christiane Seiffert embodies a person, a situation, an animal, more than she imitating them. A funny and absurd visual interpretation through which the artist tries — beyond the appearance — to reveal the personality of what is in the picture.
[pages 152–153] Dog Cluny, 1993
[page 154] Church Lisbon, 2005
[page 155] Lamp GDR, 1993
[pages 156–157] Dog Basset, 1998
[page 158] Orchid, 1998
[page 159] Deer, 1994
[pages 160–161] Socket, 1993 153
Interview with Markus Schaden by Nazlı Deniz Oğuz
I guess that everyone at least once have dreamed about – and maybe even tried to – write a book. I don’t know what it is like in the rest of the world, but somewhere between childhood and adolescence, almost every kid in Turkey turns out to be a poet for a while. The reason is simple: during this phase, everything feels like a flurry of sweet childish passion. Those who hang on to their stories and don’t lose that fervour can step towards a culture of expression – that can help them to express themselves or just to understand others. And I find this passion a rather magical thing. 165
Given the long story of the medium, my affinity to photobooks and their multi-faceted magic is fairly new. By this I mean “those photobooks” that seem merely a sequence of photographs, yet are quite capable of telling stories; from a more romantic perspective, those that please you as a child and change your world. Somewhere in the interview you are about to read Markus Schaden says that photography books are beginning to prove their power to constitute a “visual-literature”. For the grown-ups in the world of photography, I guess this is a bit like a dream coming true; now each and everyone of us can make a book, our stories can travel around the world, just as they do now.
held from August to October 2014 at the Carlswerk in Cologne-Mülheim, presented within the biannual photography festival Internationale Photoszene Köln. The show is organized by the Cologne based Schaden.com Foundation, formerly the bookshop and the publishing house run by Markus Schaden. Its forty-three-days program will include workshops, PhotoBook Studies, talks and discussions. The second step, starting in 2015, is The Online Museum based on the Carlswerk Edition. The third step is going to be The Mobile Museum: the cargo-version of The_PBM will be loaded in shipping containers and will travel around the world. Finally, The_PBM will look for a permanent place where to stay and to be installed for the long run.
Vielleicht lassen sich die Besucher anregen, selber ein Fotobuch zu realisieren. Dafür stehen Kurse, Labore, Druckwerkstätten und Fotobuchexperten bereit. Die Angebote sind gleichermaßen für Neulinge wie Fachleute konzipiert. Kindern und Jugendlichen wird ein eigener Bereich eingerichtet. Üblicherweise ist es in einem Museum strengstens verboten, Ausstellungsstücke anzufassen. Nicht so im Lesesaal des PhotoBookMuseums. Über 300 Exemplare stehen dem Besucher hier zum Studium zur Verfügung. Er soll die haptische Qualität des Papiers erspüren und darf die ausliegenden Fotobücher nach eigenem Gusto erkunden. Bei dem Buchkonvolut handelt es sich um Werke, die von 2007 bis 2013 am Photobook Award des Fotobookfestivals in Kassel teilgenommen haben. Die von einer hochkarätig besetzten Jury kuratierte Auswahl vermittelt einen hervorragenden Blick über die Entwicklung des Fotobuchs der Gegenwart.
Der Standort Mythos Köln
Seit Jahrzehnten gilt Köln als deutsches Mekka der Fotografie. Hier wirkten August Sander, Hugo Schmölz, Chargesheimer und der große Fürsprecher der Fotografie L. Fritz Gruber. Heute arbeiten und leben hier Fotografen wie Candida Höfer, Boris Becker und Wolfgang Zurborn. International bekannt sind auch die fotografischen Sammlungen des Museum Ludwig und der SK Stiftung sowie die auf Fotografie spezialisierten Galerien wie die von Thomas Zander und Priska Pasquer.
Zum Ruf als Fotohauptstadt hat jedoch vor allem die erste und bis heute bedeutendste Fotomesse der Welt beigetragen: die 1950 gegründete Photokina. 2014 findet die Messe parallel zur Expo im Carlswerk statt. Zeitgleich startet unter neuer Leitung und mit neuem Konzept die Internationale Photoszene Köln. Das Festival koordiniert im gesamten Stadtraum über 60 Ausstellungen und Veranstaltungen. Eine davon ist The PhotoBookMuseum Expo im Carlswerk in Köln-Mülheim.
Auf dem Areal des ehemaligen Kabelwerks und in unmittelbarer Nachbarschaft haben sich heute Kultur, Medien und Gastronomie angesiedelt. Veranstaltungsorte wie E-Werk, Palladium und die Spielstätten vom Schauspiel Köln haben dazu beigetragen, aus dem Schanzenviertel eines der belebtesten und vielseitigsten Viertel rechts des Rheins zu machen. Das Messegelände und die Altstadt sind nicht weit entfernt und die Verkehrsanbindungen hervorragend. Vom Hauptbahnhof ist das Carlswerk mit dem Kölner Nahverkehr in nur 15 Minuten zu erreichen. Für Besucher, die mit dem Pkw kommen, bietet sich die Zufahrt über den unmittelbaren Autobahnanschluss (A3) an.
Photography books are often seen as art objects; nevertheless, in order to go beyond wellintentioned experiments, it’s necessary to establish a specific place in visual culture and to create a cultural background for those who produce and consume them. Now more than ever, the book is deemed to be the most important medium to share and consume photography. In the early 2000s, the boom in articles, publications and even books about photobooks was heralding a new era. For many years now, specialised awards, events and festivals devoted to photography books only have been taking place. To coincide with the 175th anniversary of the invention of photography, on August 19th the PhotoBook Museum – a new museum in Cologne dedicated exclusively to photobooks – will join the ranks. Having spent many years sell“Nowadays PhotoBooks are a great democratic ing and publishing photobooks, medium for photographers to express themselves. Everyone museum’s can make them the founder Markus and create their own podium. These podia deserve a place to frame Schaden decided to try a fresh them. And above all: PhotoBooks are addictive, but don’t kill you.” approach to this medium, which he likes to call the central form of expression in photography. We should not expect an ordinary museum. Its mission will be to promote the photobook as an independent artistic medium and it will be a public space that educates a broad audience about the form, content and function of photobooks. – Erik Kessels, Amsterdam, Member of the Advisory Board of The PhotoBookMuseum
To this end, The PhotoBook Museum (The_PBM) will follow a four-step process. The first step is The Carlswerk Edition: an exposition 166
The first step’s opening event, The Carlswerk Edition, will be a tribute to the Cologne photographer Chargesheimer’s famous photobook Köln 5 Uhr 30. His work consists of photographs of Cologne’s streets and squares taken at 5:30 AM. As the opening event, everyone in Cologne who is awake at 5:30 AM on the 19th of August is invited to take pictures of Cologne. Using these photographs and other documentations, Chargesheimer’s legendary exhibition that took place in Photokina in 1970 will be reconstructed. More than twenty-five exhibitions organized in six different sections will illustrate the wide variety of photobooks’ styles and contents from around the world. One group will focus on historical overviews including Erik Kessels, Martin Parr, Garry Badger, Hans-Jürgen Raabe, Jiang Jian and Dominique Darbois. Another group of exhibitions will present outstanding examples of recent photobooks by Carlos Spottorno, Christina de Middel, Oliver Sieber, Stephen Gill, David Alan Harvey, Ricardo Cases, Deanne & Ed Templeton, Ali Taptık, Carolyn Drake, Todd Hido and Andrea Diefenbach. The_PBM has no intention to promote any specific work. The museum will actually not have a collec-
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The PhotoBookMuseum (The_PBM) pays tribute to the central form of expression in photography: the photobook. To introduce the concept, the Photoszene Köln will present an international exposition at the Carlswerk in Cologne-Mülheim from August to October 2014. The expo will be organized by the Cologne-based Schaden.com Foundation. The program will include exhibitions, workshops, PhotoBookStudies, talks and discussions.
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The mission of the museum mote the photobook as an artistic medium. The Photo intended to be a vibrant pu educates a broad audience content and function of pho motto could be this: away w The_PBM will have only a fe books that are kept behind visitors will be encouraged majority of objects so that paper and leaf through the own speed. In this way they the intent of the photograp objects will be given top pr will have nothing in commo museums of the past. Inste petus from reform-minded as Tate Modern. Its director is pursuing the goal of mak a museum of the 21st cent
tion of its own; instead, collectors will be invited to work together with the museum’s curators in order to present their materials to a broad audience. Cecilia and Walter Zöller’s collection of Daido Moriyama’s books, Oliver Klobes & Oliver Tielsch’s collection on skateboard community, Bernd Detsch’s collection of Ed Ruscha’s books and finally Larissa Leclair’s collection on independent publishers will be exhibited.
photobook is traced on its exterior walls. The_PBM, unlike the well-trodden museum approach, wants to be a place where visitors can touch with their own hands the works on display – over 300 photobooks. That means: feeling the paper, studying the form and poring over the content. The reading room will feature the works selected for the Photobook Award at the Fotobookfestival in Kassel from 2007 to 2013. In cooperation with Photoszene Köln, The_PBM will organize workshops, lectures, discussions and tours.
Another exciting section in The_PBM is the PhotoBookStudies, where the artistic, historical and social origins of selected photobooks will be illustrated. This is a completely new way of approaching the photobook, developed by Markus Schaden together with his students from the Academy of Media Arts Cologne. Among the chosen books, Ed van der Elsken’s Love On The Left Bank, Todd Hido’s Excerpts From Silvermeadows, Daido Moriyama’s books, Susan Meiselas’ In History and Anders Petersen’s Cafe Lehmitz. These researches show the context that influenced the authors in their works; for example, in Anders Petersen’s case, The_PBM built a replica of Cafe Lehmitz and the story of the
While self-publishing and independent publishing run at full steam, complementing traditional publishing, The_PBM comes not only as an important sign of times to come, but also provides an exciting opportunity to better comprehend the new context of photography in the form of photobooks. Using The_PBM as an excuse, we made a quite long chat with Markus Schaden – one of the pioneers in this paradigm shift in photography – not only on The_PBM, but also on photobook culture, museums, independent and self-publishing, photobook market, private collections, digital publishing and more.
“A PhotoBook has everything. Print, design and editing with a sense of touch, weight and smell. There is no better way to taste the richness of the medium.” – Mariko Takeuchi Tokyo, Member of the Advisory Board of The PhotoBookMuseum
INTERVIEW We know your love for photobooks, and the story behind it. But where did the idea of a museum dedicated to photobooks come from? What turned this passion into a museum? It was a two-step process. First, I realized I couldn’t go on only with the bookstore and the publishing work, but at the same time I didn’t want to give up my mission on developing the photobook culture. The inspiration came from Paris Photo’s director Julien Frydman. If you look here, exactly at this sofa (he points the sofa behind him), this was the place where The Photobook Museum’s concept was born. Julien said ‘Markus, if you consider all the things you’ve done, you already are an institution – now you should become a real institution!’ The museum idea took shape in a funny way: I was in a very nice children’s book museum near Cologne with my daughters; there is an exhibition area, collections of children’s books and a cool reading room for kids. And all of a sudden, that Sunday afternoon, the idea came to my mind “Why not a photobook museum?” Actually, there are no museums dedicated to photobooks. The existing photo museums focus on print collections rather than the book itself. That’s how I came to decide I was going to develop a “photobook culture”, turning Schaden.com into an institution. You said The Photobook Museum’s main aim is to develop the photobook culture. Why is it that so important? I think it is a central expressive medium within photography. It is perfect to tell stories, to document lives: it is sustainable and resistant, even if you don’t take care of it so much. If you compare it to prints, it is cheap and democratic. It’s an object made with the purpose of sharing. Another interesting aspect is that, as a photographer, you have to delineate a very clear statement when designing a photobook. Once you’ve printed and published it, it’s done. In an exhibition you can change prints, you can produce a new style – with a book, you can’t make any correction. On the other hand, books are flexible objects, because everyone can browse through it as their 168
own pace. The visual literature can be shared with everyone in the world: a photobook doesn’t have to be translated in order to be read. Nevertheless, just reading doesn’t mean understanding. If you take a Daido Moriyama’s book, for example, you can look at the pictures, but you will need some visual background in order to fully understand its basic idea. For this reason, going back to your question, to develop the photobook culture means mainly to get a step ahead in the capacity of understanding and reading it. It sounds like a big basic educational project. I love – maybe this is the end of a long answer to a short question – what Wolfgang Tillmans said in an interview for The Guardian recently: he looked at the youth culture and said “Pictures are replacing words as messages”. The kids are not writing ‘Oh, I love you!’ anymore, they send a picture. In the near future, the visual literature will gain more and more importance, and photobooks are part of it. There is no need to worry about the quantity, because it takes quantity to generate quality. I often hear people saying something like “In the last year, man produced more photographs than in the last almost-two-centuries of photography” – normally, they mean banality, crisis, an overwhelming tsunami... In my opinion, this is not dangerous; it’s just the proof that we need to educate our eyes to extract the quality out of it. Can we say that, with The Photobook Museum, you are formally declaring the existence of photobooks? I mean, announcing photobook as an art form on its own and as something serious enough to open a museum about? The process of recognizing the photobook as an art form has already started. MOMA’s photography curator Quentin Bajac said “Photography is no longer about the wall. The book form is basic to photography.” Tate Modern is taking over Martin Parr’s famous 60.000-books-collection. I think these are very meaningful signs. I would rather say that we are announcing the paradigm shift; we are revealing that something is changing in terms of photography museums and the book form is getting on a curatorial level. Let’s overturn the perspective. Normally, you have the book in a display/glass window next to an exhibition, like The Americans by Robert Frank.
In my opinion, this is not the right point view: you have to bring the book on the wall and say ‘Here we have prints, and the prints illustrates the book’, because his work is not the sixty-five vintage prints from the negatives. No no! The book, The Americans, is a piece of art. For sure there are exceptions – Andreas Gursky is not a book man, for example. But I think most of the time a museum needs to think “How do we exhibit this work? How do we archive and collect it and how do we finally change photo history with a new look?” We will try to present a new approach to photography through the photobook. I’m not saying we won’t use prints, but it is more about explaining rather than showing. A very important aspect will be working on how photographers make the artwork.
just need a public space and use the museum idea as a promotional thing. In some of his recent statements, the Tate Modern’s director Chris Dercon touched interesting points about museum’s new functions nowadays. He’s a great freestyler and supports inclusion rather then exclusion. Inclusion is an open concept, which means to participate, to be able to develop, to ask questions, to work it out. We will both follow these new ideas and pay a tribute to the traditional museum intended as a classic exhibition space.
That’s why in the Museum there will be a section called Photobook Studies, which will be about understanding the process of making photobooks... Exactly. There are different ways in which it can be explained. In Ed van der Elsken’s case, we took one of his books and we analysed its background, its interpretation. For Daido Moriyama, we explained the whole book’s life. And with Cafe Lehmitz, we wanted to pay a tribute to the location, so we rebuilt it. What we try to do is to find solutions on how can we exhibit, how can we display, how can we bring the photobooks back to life. A lot of people have no idea of what Cafe Lehmitz is, or The Americans, The Afronauts, and so on... A big part of our work is dedicated to people that neither are collectors nor professionals or experts, but just readers. The Photobook Museum is questioning the traditional aspect of a museum. What kind of institution should we expect? We are following a master plan. The initial phase is a temporary project, a kind of prototype; then we will make an online version; after that, we will proceed with a mobile itinerant museum; as a last step, a permanent residence. It’s a new idea that needs some time to be developed. Moreover, we are not supported by any public money: it’s hard, but it gives us a lot of freedom. This is not a regular way to set up a museum; normally, you have a big collection and you build a museum around it. The other way is what company museums do: they
What are the criteria for the books to be included in The Photobook Museum? The first criterion is simple: not just the hall of fame. We want to catch the attention of people, especially the ones who are not so close to art and photobooks. As an example, we paid a tribute to Chargesheimer, a very good Cologne photographer who is really underestimated. Another very important aspect, for me, is the connection to the context. The country, the visual background, the cultural habits are some of the main elements which guided the first prototype’s selection. At present, the criterion is pretty much “Cologne-based”, since our first home base is here. Generally speaking, we want to give space to a wide range of different things. For example, the innovative power of the contemporary Spanish photobooks, where Carlos Spottorno, Ricardo Cases, Christina de Middel are playing a very strong role. We also have a section with Kummer & Herrman about The Sochi Project; or the beautiful work by the Chinese master Jiang Jian, that is very much unseen. From Turkey, Ali Taptık’s Metropol Yeşili is very fascinating. You see, we try to be global. Back to the curatorial aspect, we try to show also the photobook’s “backstage”. With the Photobook Studies, for example, we focus on all the aspects which are not visible in the final product: the discarded pictures, the B series, the dummy style – it’s like being on the photographer’s desktop. What about the relation between selfpublishing and powerhouse publishing? As we know, the first is becoming more and more important for photographers and this affects both the production process and the market. How do the powerhouse publishers see this new situation? 169
I think they are not observing each other that much. I am sure both the independent and the powerhouse markets depend more on the ground problems of the worldwide publishing market itself, that is a very traditional one and changes really slowly, like the Vatican (laughs). Distribution, for example, is still a crucial aspect that is very complicated to handle. On the other hand, it’s a crazy field: people are incredibly enthusiastic and they invest money, time, lifetime, everything in making a book. They consider themselves happy when they don’t loose money – it means there must be something more than a business aspect. Which, I think, is the most exciting aspect of the whole market: it is kind of out the real business. This is a very interesting point, if you consider that the photography issue is really big nowadays, but the publishing market is not so. Maybe thousands of photobooks are made every year, so how to get in touch, how to deal with them? The solution can’t come from a classic bookstore, book dealer perspective. We can now use social networks to promote and for public relations: if you have 250 copies and enough friends, you can even use Facebook as a distribution platform. But still, it’s not enough. That’s why a public institution is needed: to guarantee access and visibility to all this material. In this process, digital production and e-books are a great resource. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all develops.
If the photographer is alive, it can be even worse, because nobody is one hundred per cent satisfied with an old book, so it’s very common that he or she wants to change it. William Klein is a perfect example: he reprinted his famous New York book, but in a slightly different version. We all thought the original was a great, life-changing book – but nothing, he insisted to make a new version out of it.
But why re-printing is so rare in this field? It could contribute to lower the photobooks’ prices… The main reason is the copyright problem: you have to deal with the photographer to get the permission to make a reprint; if he is dead, you have to get it from the estate or from who is following the copyrights. In Chargesheimer’s case, for instance, three different subjects are involved: the publisher DuMont Schauberg, The Museum Ludwig that has the print’s copyrights, and the institution who owns the negatives. The publisher looks at the profit, while the museum has to take care that it won’t be badly produced, so they want a curator. But another curator will be too expensive for the publisher. You can understand why to organize a reprint is a nightmare, even if the photographer is dead. 170
Coming back to the photobook market today: do you think The Photobook Museum will affect it, and how? You declared the Museum won’t have a private collection, but you’re going to invite privates to exhibit their owns. What can you tell me about the collectors? The collectors’ market is hot, it is booming and the prices will continue to go up. More and more people are discovering the photobook as an interesting object. Even books about photobooks are growing in number, as a consequence of the fact that the information level among the collectors is now higher. There are important trendsetters, like Parr/ Badger who travel around the world and discover new interesting stuff, and the whole crowd is following them. But there is also a private curatorial aspect of buying photobooks that is interesting – it’s something that needs time and a precise focus or subject, it’s not just buying here and there. It has to be said that who buys photobooks sometimes calls himself/herself a collector too easily. Generally speaking, if photobooks are becoming a new place for photography, it will also have an effect in the market. For sure, the Photobook Museum will push the market, but first of all we want to push the medium, the make it accessible to a growing audience of readers and buyers. There will always be the crazy fetish person who needs the super exclusive copy, but this is not a problem. Our purpose is to make the whole publishing industry healthier and to give it a chance to survive and flourish. Serious collectors affect the market, you said. When a book is published and it grabs the attention of an influent collector, the book’s price can become out of sight. Doesn’t it create a big wall between the audience and the photographer? The book
itself is an art form on its own, so it seems a bit in contradiction with the spirit of sharing, especially if we consider that the book is a mobile exhibition. Also, this affects the photographers’ careers and future choices. What do you think about all this? The best example for the situation you delineate is Christina De Middel’s The Afronauts. The author decided not to make a second edition, which I think is a pity because there was a chance it could reach much more people. A great book with a small run, and the collectors jumped on it. They doubled the price nearly every six months, so now we have 5 available copies that are around 1000 British Pounds each. It is for sure an over hype, speculative thing. Christina is now a well-booked photographer, she travels the world, and so this decision really changed her career. Which is good for her, but it makes the process incomplete: this book could be for 15.000 people minimum because of its subject and nature, but in the end is owned only by 1000 people. “When do I really need to own a book? Just knowing about a book can be considered enough? Or just having a chance to look at it?” They are good questions. Personally, I have to say, after whole years spent with photobooks always in my head, I thought I would love to become a little bit detached from the craziness of this market. I decided not to be a collector – I just wanted to be a reader. A real reader. For sure I want to give a big space to the object, to the original print’s aura and spirit, but this is only one aspect. I think the content should be stressed, and it can be found and read also somewhere else rather than on paper: on the wall, in you mind, wherever. The very existence of a photobook is not only connected to the physical medium. If I own it, does it become important? No, it doesn’t. Its importance is contained in the idea. I think that if you produce a photobook, you want to make a great statement; you want people to change their own world through the story you’re telling. This is a side aspect for collectors, but for me it’s the most important thing. I give more value to the concept than to the collector’s item. Let’s talk about digital books. Which are their advantages and disadvantages? The second step for the museum will also to be an online gallery. What about photobooks that will never be printed on paper?
It’s not paper versus screen: they both have different characteristics, specific strengths and weaknesses. Of course I love the smell and consistency of paper, like everyone – but the e-book will give us big opportunities in terms of distribution, as well as in the research of out-of-prints, never published or hard-to-find books, and so on. On the artistic level, I am still waiting for an e-book which will really catch my attention. Something like Todd Hido’s Silver meadows: while browsing through his e-book, if you touch on the pictures, they start to move. This is great, because it experiments what a paper book could never do. But it needs crazy photographers to do this, authors who are keen of digital media. The same can be said for the publishing houses: at the moment, the market is still too small to make a comparison between digital and paper photobooks. We need more publishers and e-book stores. We also need critics and reviewers that can make a selection, like in the real world. Publishing houses must realise that the digital book is pushing the paper edition, not preventing it. Ed Ruscha’s books? I don’t have them, they are too expensive, but I would buy the digital versions of all Ruscha’s books, if they existed. Imagine, this would be a great market! Something that also students could afford. Concerning the online gallery, we will see what’s coming up. The existing e-books software is not designed to support picture-based books, so we are still searching for the final platform that can support a photobook’s digital version in the best possible way. Do you think photobooks are the best way/are necessary for photographers to share her/his work? For sure. What’s the alternative? Just showing prints? How self-publishing can effect a photographer’s career? The history of the independent photobook publishing is not old enough to make a complete evaluation. What I know is that in the last five years I’ve seen a lot of indie stuff which is now published by established houses – so, yes, that must have some effect on a photographer’s career, but let’s see what will happen in the future. Said that, self-publishing is a good start. It’s 171
a perfect promotional channel and a much more interesting way of showing your work to other people, rather then just meeting them on portfolio reviews or it in private.
it with no support from the city. It’s a pretty controversial situation, because if on one hand Cologne aims to become kind of a Mecca for photography in Germany, on the other there is no vocation for innovation and experimentation. My strategy is to convince the city after the 19th of August, the Museum’s opening day. I’m totally relaxed about it. I know I have to deal with this kind of situations, it’s always difficult and it’s the same everywhere. But this is the thrilling aspect of pioneering projects, isn’t it?
Which choice is better for a photographer that wants to make a photobook: to work for himself/herself or with a designer, an editor? Option B. We have a BookLab in The Photobook Museum and our aim is finding answers for questions like this. The MasterClasses also goes in this direction. The editing process is the most important part of the photobook making and it has to be a collaborative work between a photographer and a designer or editor – or publisher, maybe. Photographers have a very personal view of their own work, so the presence of an objective vision is extremely important in finding the successful solution. A very personal question: if you had the chance to re-edit a photobook, which one would you choose, or what kind of a story would it be? I have a few. For sure I would be very excited to remake one of William Eggleston’s book. This is my number one in my wish list, followed by Alex Webb. Don’t tell them! In general, this is valid for all the photographers I think made great photos but I am disappointed how bad the books are. Many eastern German photographers, for instances, have amazing photographic works, but they often failed often in making super boring books based on incredibly cheap editing. The most important aspect about re-editing things is to see the part of work which is not included in the final product – this means re-editing is as stepping into the whole body of work. It seems that Cologne is taking another giant step into the history of photography. For the last question, how was the process of implementing The PhotoBook Museum in the city? I love Cologne, there is no question about moving to Berlin or any other place. I wanted to keep the Museum very independent and this meant installing 172
#24 Royal Road Test #26 A Ed Ruscha Book Tribute Collection, Bernd Detsch #25 Revisited: Marks of Honor. A Striking Library Project 1-2.
The Golden Age Of Neglect, The Klobes-Tielsch Collection supported by Monster Skateboard Magazine
#27 The South_Asian_Pacific Photobook now! #28 The ReadingRoom, curated by fotoBookfestival Kassel
Exhibitions Section E: The Collections
#29 Photobook_Kids #30 Efactory ShaShaSha, 83 Japanese ePhotoBook Back to Wall
Kettler KatalogBox PrintFactory
#31 No Fixed Format by Kummer & Herrman
The PhotoBookStore by artbooksonline & CafeLehmitz Books
Exhibitions Section F: Special*rooms The South_Asian_Pacific Photobook now!
Revisited: Marks of Honor. A Striking Library Project 1-2.
Casino feat. Zelda
The ReadingRoom, curated by fotoBookfestival Kassel
#28 #11 Carolyn Drake
#05 Oliver Sieber
#12 Ali Taptik
#06 Stephen Gill
#13 Christina de Middel
David Alan Harvey Based on a true story
Best Before End
Office Körnerstrasse 6-8 50823 Köln email@example.com CEO Markus Schaden +49 (0)171 48 32 444
The PhotoBookStore by Art Book Cologne & Cafe Lehmitz Books
Casino feat. Zelda Festivalzentrum
Exhibitions Section A: PhotoBookHistory
Exhibitions Section B: NewDocuments
#01 Chargesheimer, Köln 5Uhr30, A Book-History, reconstructed: Photokina 1970 #02 Erik Kessels, Album Beauty, The Private Photo-Album
#05 Oliver Sieber Imaginary Club #06 Stephen Gill Best Before End
#03 The Photobook History PARR/BADGER 3 #04 Collection Martin Parr Protest Books
#07 David Alan Harvey Based on a true story #08 Carlos Spottorno Pigs
Deanne & Ed Templeton Teenage Kissers
#09 Ricardo Cases Paloma Al Aire #10 Deanne & Ed Templeton Teenage Kissers
#11 Carolyn Drake Two Rivers #12 Ali Taptik Metropol Yesili
#21 Jiang Jian Archives On Orphans #22 Hans-Jürgen Raabe 990 faces #20 The La Brea Matrix, Extended Version, Learning from Las Vegas, Stephen Shore and Six German Photographers Studio LA-X
#19 Anders Petersen
Erik Kessels, Album Beauty, The Private Photo-Album
#19 Anders Petersen Cafe Lehmitz
A Project by Schaden.com Foundation
#17 Daido Moriyama The Daido Books #18 Susan Meiselas In History
#15 Ed van der Elsken Love On The Left Bank #16 Todd Hido Excerpts From Silvermeadows
Photokina 16. – 21. September 2014
Exhibitions Section D: ProjectWork
New Japanese Standard. Moriyama & Company. Collection Cäcilia and Walter Zöller
OpeningWeek 19. – 24. August 2014
Exhibitions Section C: PhotoBookStudies*
The CarlswerkEdition 18. August – 03. October 2014 Cologne-Mülheim
Susan Meiselas In History
#24 Köln 5UHr30, A Book-History, reconstructed: Photokina 1970
#03 The Photobook History
Daido Moriyama The Daido Books
#21 Jiang Jian
Royal Road Test A Ed Ruscha Book Tribute Collection, Bernd Detsch
Todd Hido Excerpts From Silvermedows
Archives On Orphans
#22 Hans-Jürgen Raabe
The Golden Age Of Negiect, The Klobes-Tielsch Collection supported by Monster Skateboard
Extended Version, Lerning from Las Vegas, Stephen Shore and Six German Photographers Studio LA-X
Paloma Al Aire
#20 The La Brea Matrix,
#09 Ricardo Cases
Trolleyology, A Publishing History of Gigi G.
The Indie-PhotoBook Library Selection by Larissa Leclair
Carlos Spottorno Pigs
Andrea Diefenbach Land Ohne Eltern
Ed van der Elsken Love On The Left bank
Efactory ShaShaSha, 83 Japanese ePhotoBook Back to Wall
No Fixed Format by Kummer & Herrman
Das Buchlabor FH Dortmund
Reunion. PhotoBook MasterClass 2010 – 2014
Open Call The_PBM MasterClass
Internationale Photoszene Köln: Festivalzentrum Lectures, Screenings, Conferences
Fotobookfestival Kassel: Book & Dummy Award, Exhibition & GrandPrizenight
#04 Collection Martin Parr
SCH14_009_folded map DEF.indd 1
Containers: #23 New Japanese Standard. Moriyama & Company. Collection Cäcilia and Walter Zöller
#13 Christina de Middel The Afronauts #14 Andrea Diefenbach Land Ohne Eltern
This series was compiled during my first and only trip to Japan. In the Fall of 2013 I travelled there to visit my brother, who is currently working in Sapporo designing parts of Nintendo games.
Photographs and text by Chris Maggio
Unlike mainstream American culture, Japan’s zeitgeist doesn’t try to constantly subvert itself. In the U.S., irony in entertainment and advertising is pervasive and constant- and we’ve gotten rather good at communicating with it in our day to day lives. In Japan, much of the mainstream culture lacks this patina of sarcasm. Everything seems very genuine, very emotive. Stuck behind the language barrier, I was certainly missing some subtexts- but I really enjoyed being in an environment where it seemed like a lot more things were taken at face value.
Chris Maggio Pages 172—185
A day with
Penelope Umbrico, from the series Sunset Portraits, 2011
Penelope Umbrico, from the series Sunset Portraits, 2011
Penelope Umbrico, People in front of Suns from Flickr, from the series Suns (From Sunsets) from Flickr, 2006 â€“ ongoing
Screenshot from Penelope Umbricoâ€™s computer
A DAY WITH PENELOPE UMBRICO by Paola Paleari
Penelope Umbrico is a New York based artist that uses photography as a medium to investigate the cognitive and collective paths governing the “society of images” where she – as well as we – lives and operates. This concept, which is nowadays fully established, saw its appearance in Guy Debord’s book Society of the Spectacle, first published in 1967. The essay marked the beginning of a new political and historical era characterized by the separation of the images from real life: everything that was directly lived before has now moved away into representations. Almost fifty years later, Debord’s idea is more relevant today than ever. The digital boom, driven by new technologies and social networks, has hypertrophied the visual aspect of our lives, constantly dubbed by a parallel unavoidable stream of images. This condition is the framework of Umbrico’s research, who collects recurrent visual elements taken from everyday sources – such as furniture catalogues or online pictures portals – and then reassembles them into serial projects that reflect on specific semiotic mechanisms. Nomen omen: like Homer’s wife in the Odyssey, Penelope unravels and reweaves the shroud of images in a potentially infinite back-and-forth process which is best exemplified by her most famous series, Suns from Flickr (2006–2007). Here, the artist simply took all the pictures tagged with the word “sunset” on the photo-sharing web site Flickr, made Kodak snapshot prints and displayed them in a massive wall installation. The result is a clear demonstration of how repetitive, unavoidable and yet powerful is photography’s expressive vocation.
I find your artistic parabola very fascinating: you were trained as a painter and you later became a photographer, realizing abstract images – as much as the term “abstraction” can be applied to photography. Today, your practice is based on pictures made by others, that you elaborate and combine in collections where the overall significance is always wider than the sum of the parts. During this process of detachment from pure creation in favour of reinterpretation, what has kept unvaried in your approach to the image, and what has changed instead? I started using photography because it had a certain kind of evidential veracity to it, and I found seductive the play or tension between its practically invisible surface with its illusionistic depth, and the flatness of the paper on which that sat. With painting it was exactly the opposite for me – the canvas was impossibly physical and the substance of paint, though also physical, always insisted on its own flatness. There was this kind of paradoxical inversion: where the very flat photographic surface could infer depth, while the built up canvas surface remained flat. 189
Can you explain a little what you were painting and how that led to photography? At the time I was making semi-abstract paintings of found images of common everyday objects. When I started taking out of focus, or otherwise distorted, photographs of them, this brought them to life for me. A photograph, or at least my photographs, of an object, questioned the value of these objects and spoke about perception and representation, both conceptual and physiological, more than painting them ever could. There was something about the indexicality at play, not only in the record of the thing before the camera, but also the record of the process of recording. I think this is an element that has remained the same in my work - an interest in the record, the reference and in a kind of recursivity. Actually, I never thought of that earlier work as abstract, partly for same reasons that you qualified the term in relation to photography (the reference always to the referent, however unrecognizable), but also because I considered that work to be a straight document: the image was the result of a process by which the camera was performing a function (in this case, a function other than the one it was intended for). This is not altogether different than what I am doing now: I use images to represent something other than what they were actually intended for. My subject is still photography, and what I do is documentary in this sense - it just looks different. That was 1988-89, the most advanced pedestrian tools were disposable 35mm film cameras and one-hour labs, now we have smart camera-phones and the Internet. Talking about the Internet: we all know the tremendous impact it has been having on the fruition of photography, as it became, in a relatively short period, the main source of iconographic research and exchange. From the semantic and cognitive point of view, one of the biggest consequences of this process is that, for the first time in his history, mankind has a linguistic index at its disposal that is universally shared and understood. You are playing the interpreter’s role in this visual Babel – what does this entail? 190
A day with
Universally shared, perhaps; I’m not sure if “understood”. In fact it is often something I don’t understand, or I am wrestling with, that drives me to spend so much time sifting through the “visual Babel”. Interesting, to say I play the interpreter’s role – I’ve not thought about it this way. For me it entails engaging with the content I find there, to the point that it becomes something else, takes on another life, and points back to its source in an unexpected and critical way. I guess in this way, I’m not a very good interpreter: I only interpret what I’m interested in, and then make things stand for something else, often the opposite of their originally intended meaning. Since its beginning, photography as an artistic form has passed through several crucial moments: the subordination to other creative disciplines and practices, the emancipation from the claim of truthfulness and, more recently, the problem of authorship. What do you think the future holds, in terms of new challenges for photography? … and now more than ever there are so many different kinds of photography, that trying to think about the future of photography is like trying to think about the future of mark making, or the spoken word! People speak for all kinds of reasons – mostly for communication, but sometimes it’s only Babel, or we speak to hear our own voice… and no one is listening. Which ties back to your previous question about how one navigates the “visual Babel”. The kind of photography I look for and use in my work is quite different than the kind I make. I look for the small talk, the visual Babel, and in what it can tell us about ourselves. And, right now anyway, I am absolutely dependent on this kind of photography in order to make my work. This means my work changes depending on tagging trends and point-and-shoot camera technology. I’ve had to stop adding to one project because camera phones now have facial recognition and I can no longer find images of silhouetted people in front of sunsets, which was a result of the camera is exposing for the sun, not the intended subject. In another project, higher resolution point-and-shoot cameras are showing me things I only suspected were there in the same sort of images five years ago.
Screenshot from Penelope Umbrico's computer
Penelope Umbrico, Mountains, Moving: of Swiss Alp Postcards and Sound of Music, 2013
Picture from Penelope Umbrico's studio in New York Picture from Penelope Umbrico's studio in New York
Penelope Umbrico, from the series Mountains. Moving, 2012 â€“ ongoing
But let me qualify: I also participate in the “babel”. I’m very conscious of allowing myself the joy or utilitarian convenience of taking pictures in this way. I just don’t think of it as my work. I wouldn’t say the work I do is joyful, or utilitarian: it’s always challenging somehow, and often, after some amount of struggle, very gratifying (and occasionally fun), but I am reliant on all the joyful image sharing and tagging that’s going on, and all the pictures people take of things they don’t want anymore, in order to make my work… So, instead of traveling the world documenting a particular subject for an idea I have, I travel web-space, sometimes for weeks, months, collecting images as I go in order to finally get what I need to make a point or ask a question. The dichotomy you depict is a compelling point… Well, I am particularly fascinated by the individual need to assert a presence online, when in fact the very condition of this presence is a kind of individual erasure. Perhaps this is a challenge for photographers – especially with regard to the issues around authorship, or the promise of visibility, community and intimacy that photography once held. It’s questionable whether the scripted images we see on Instagram, Facebook or Flickr, that are made with cameras programmed to behave in predetermined ways, can foster any sort of subjectivity or individuality. So the question of authorship in relation to photography’s appropriative nature (its inherent indexicality and the early struggle to claim mechanical reproduction as an art form) is now even more complicated when everyone is basically taking the same picture. To me, the abundance of this kind of image taking is representative of the collective, not the individual – in total it adds up to an inadvertent self-portrait of the world. As an archive of material, if you read it this way, it has the potential to reveal unexpected things. This is how big data works: even the most individual images in this context become anonymous and decontextualized. It’s the new street. In Mountains. Moving, your last project which is still going on, you employ your smartphone’s integrated camera to take new pictures of the images of the mountains photographed by masters such as Ansel 192
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Adams. I think that the originality lies here in the choice of stressing the lack of control that we as users have on the device, considering that all the elements of the picture – colour, tone, contrast and even orientation – are set by the application software. The antithesis with the way how the original picture was taken is evident – but, more generally speaking, what is your position about the development of mobile photography? Related to the idea of user lack of control, this project is also about the idea of the script – both in terms of software, as you say, as well as image content (sunset, mountain, portrait, the Grand Canyon, the Eiffel Tower…). A script is something we follow, something we already know – it’s what we are looking for when we take a picture of something that we’ve already seen, because it’s been photographed a million times. Software tools give us all the pre-sets we need to re-make the photo-worthy world as we already know it… but better, of course. I guess this has always been the case with all technologies. I love these technologies as much as anyone, but I take issue with the claim that they make photography and image authoring democratic just because anyone can use them. For one thing, not everyone has access, but within the large group that does, in many ways the illusion of choices we’re given masks the actual limits of choices we really have. This seems to me to be tyrannical, especially when it starts to define, in our own minds, who we are, what we want, how we want to be seen, how we see the world… Big data and big corporations aren’t just targeting us through marketing, they are teaching us how to see the world the way they see it and giving us platforms on which to project those images of it – all the while praising us for our creativity and individuality (“Think Different”). Unless one knows how to subvert or hack the tools, this is quite limiting to those who want to actually do something different. I see your point, but this sounds so negative… I know, and in fact, I love digital photography, digital video and the Internet… as well as smartphone camera apps and the really dumb filters they have! That’s why I was excited to find the perfect subject,
the mountain, to use with them: in my mind, the mountain’s material stability and the master photographs I found of them, are perfect material to be considered by the camera app’s immaterial instability. Particularly fascinating to me are the overwhelming number of “light leak” and “chemical burn” filters. They are the simulation of light (the first and foremost element of all photography) in the form of the mistakes of analogue film photography, made within the vacuum of a chip where there is no light, no space or perspective, and where the chemicals are probably worse than the darkroom chemicals it simulates. I’m calling the newest body of work from this project Light Leaks and Chemical Burns.
resistance or provocation involved in making good photo-based work. We could call this a new form of “concerned photography”, where the concern is for the subject of photography, rather than the subject the photographer is photographing.
These new technical tools you are talking about are generally very easy to play with. What is their effect on the user? Can we speak of emancipation? Of course user-friendly mobile photography has liberated photography in general, by way of allowing its users not having to be overly concerned with the technical aspects of it. Perhaps this has made anyone who is thinking seriously about photography more reflective or accountable for what is being said in a photograph. That is, since most people can now take a half decent picture, if you want to express anything of substance with the medium, you must have an idea about it. I remember when photo teachers used to say: “If you have to explain the picture, it’s not a good picture”. I don’t think anyone can affirm this any more. Maybe it’s the postmodern concerns of intentionality and context that have become emancipated, and that can only make good photography better. Which is not to affirm, of course, that we should forget about the technical aspects of photography, but that it’s not enough just to take a good picture anymore. And no amount of digital enhancement or manipulation is going to help if there’s no idea behind it … as the saying goes: “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”.
Does this mean you are advocating for a conceptual approach to photography? I guess so. I see so many students disenchanted and cynical about contributing to the increasing stream of images they see everywhere. They really struggle to make meaningful images. Or, conversely, they frantically make collections of any possible image type they can find multiples of online. Tumblers of collected cool images are great, but it takes more than that to develop something that adds to what already exists, rather than just repeats it. It’s technical, formal and conceptual all working together – you can’t separate them, and finally I think we all know that. Maybe the real challenge is a problem of impatience – it takes time to develop anything of substance, and taking our time is something we’re becoming less and less able to do. Teaching is an important part of your activity. How do you combine it with your artistic practice? Is there ever a conflict between the creator’s subjective motivations and the educator’s guiding role? All my work is in some kind of dialogue to photography – I don’t dictate what the dialogue will be, but I really do challenge the dialogue to make it meaningful. I think I do the same when I teach. And since the subject of my work and the subject of what I teach are both photography, there’s no conflict between my subjective motivations and my role as an educator – they both inform and learn from the other.
Is there a place for thoughtful resistance to always having to say something of substance? Yes, but that is also intensionalized. One way or another, I think there needs to be some sort of critical
Penelope Umbrico, from the series Mountains. Moving, 2012 – ongoing 193
Fossil Photographs and text by Alexandra Hunts
Alexandra Hunts Pages 192â€”199
Fossils are imprints, reproductions of the original ancient creatures. On the other hand we do regard fossils as relics. This is an example of objects that are reproductions, but these reproductions are full of aura which becomes a real artefact.
For this project I was interested in the topic about photographic reproduction. Nowadays we are constantly confronted with reproduction. We perceive images of objects as objects themselves. Many sculptures, places, and 3D objects are known to us only through images. But an image is a reproduction of reality. Photography was born as a tool to reproduce reality with scientific precision, but the truth we used to attach to this medium has disappeared these days. Walter Benjamin was convinced that the reproduction lacks aura, because it can be multiple. For thousands of years people were used to perceive reproduction, copy, as the original. I am convinced that the aura is the projection that we make onto the original objects or their reproductions: often it does not matter whether an object is a unique, hand-made original or a (multiple) reproduction as people can become attached to any object.
In this project I created these relics by myself. I have created fossils, which are imprints by their nature, out of clay. These hand-made objects, copies of the relics, are reproductions that are full of my own fingerprints. Since these fossils are handcrafted by me, they regain their aura and are full of human qualities. By taking photographs in typical archival photography style, of these hand-made artifacts that belong in museums I create a dialog of interpretation between documentation and reproduction. Between reality and illusion.
En Dehors des Heures Photographs and text by Elisa Murcia Artengo Translation by Juan de Dios Blasco
Elisa Murcia Artengo Pages 200â€”211
Elisa Murcia Artengo
A single death begets a thousand lives.
The photographic project “En Dehors des Heures” (Out of hours) is a book containing some photographs I came across in a street of the Sants quarter of Barcelona in 2008. They were inside a plastic bag next to the trash, together with women’s old clothes and a pile of paperwork belonging to a local family. All photographs were cut into two pieces deliberately separating the head from the body of the portrayed subject. I wanted to remain faithful to the person that threw away those photographs and did not want to reveal the identities of those portrayed. I have precisely taken advantage of the so present absence in the pictures with the will to stimulate the viewer to imagine what is missing there. The title En dehors des heures refers to that timeless space, as the missing parts of the pictures are out there, in another dimension, in the imagination of the spectator.
Not All Documents Are Records Photographing Exhibitions as an Art Form
By Mariachiara Di Trapani
The exhibition looks at three key international visual art platforms such as Documenta and the Venice Biennale through the lens of photography, moving between the past and future. The Open Eye Gallery’s show introduces the viewer to this format by presenting two seminal photographic series in a specular intense dialogue. Hans Haacke’s twenty-six black and white selected images to offer an unique insight on Documenta II (1959) and Ugo Mulas’s images of 1968 Venice Biennale. This project wants to rediscover and focus on a decade shot by these two photographers while the art world was facing a turbulent, dynamic, surprising moment in history. Curiosity, perseverance, intellectual elegance, refinement of thought and honesty are the keys of their innovative research. Haacke’s prints speak to us not only about art per se, but comments on society as well as on the politics and power relations established by the actual exhibition. While Mulas’s image document artists demonstrating against the establishment represented by the Venice Biennale when on June 18, 1968, few days before the opening of the 34th Biennale, most of the artists
took part in the demonstration supporting students and protesters. The artists from all over countries covered up their works or turned them over as symbol of resistance against violence under the slogan ”We don’t open under those conditions“ and asking for a new Biennale statute. The viewer can observe a chronicle filled with emotions, and breathe an historical era also watching a footage video installation selected by Mariachiara Di Trapani. The show also presents the works of two young photographers Cristina De Middel and Ira Lombardía. Cristina De Middel (the author of the series The Afronauts) reinterprets the history of the Liverpool Biennial and imagines its possible future developments by means of a new commission. The piece on show at Open Eye of Ira Lombardía follows the legacy of the last Documenta, over the summer 2012 and her artwork purely created by light. The spectator will be an active witness and accomplice. Not All Documents Are Records represents Open Eye Gallery’s contribution to the Liverpool Biennial 2014.
[p. 212] Photographic Notes, documenta 2, Kandinsky, Micky Mouse, 1959 © Hans Haacke © DACS, London
[p. 214] Photographic Notes, documenta 2, Magritte 2 Profiles, 1959 © Hans Haacke © DACS, London
[p. 215] Photographic Notes, documenta 2, Gonzales Nun, 1959 © Hans Haacke © DACS, London
[p. 214] Ugo Mulas, Venezia, 1968. Students in Piazza San Marco, 34th Venice Biennale d’Arte © Ugo Mulas, Courtesy of Camera 16 contemporary art, Milano
[p. 215] Ugo Mulas, Venezia, 1968. Rodolfo Aricò’s Room, 34th Venice Biennale d’Arte © Ugo Mulas, Courtesy of Camera 16 contemporary art, Milano 215
Water side Photographs by Daisuke Yokota Text by Francesca Orsi
Daisuke Yokota Pages 216â€”229
Water Side, at the genesis of experimentation Japanese photography is commonly identified as ‘poetics of the detail’, focusing on specific elements that constitute the world; scratching fragments for Daido Moriyama, who uses hysterical and provoking contrasts as a trademark; clear and exposed lights and colours instead for Rinko Kawauchi that, in a single click, seems to concentrate all the beauty known and perceived. Daisuke Yokota certainly makes use of the vicinity to Moriyama’s photographic shocking wave, that dark and viscerally striking aproach, but also does his own research of light, something that belongs to the whole Japanese tradition, a light from which the subject seems to emerge – sometimes screaming, sometimes whispering. Yokota’s subject harmonizes with the importance of expression and comunication: an obsessive re-photographing of images, giving to the final result those elemental distortions his poetics is known for. In Water Side we find Yokota back at the origins of where this technique starts – still under exploration – hadn’t yet embraced the black and white of the latest Site/Cloud. In 2009 colour was still a natural condition and the action of re-photographing, that would become his modus operandi, was aimed to add the feeling conferred by water.
cases, is willingly hidden but in Yokota’s shots is manifested in the simplicity and essence of Japanese style. The unfolding of his poetics sings the first note in Water Side and it’s interesting to observe his photographic journey backwards, finding what has remained unchanged in his later works and what has turned out a trail of the progressing change, like a skipping stone thrown in a pond that leaves behind his rings slowly fading away. There has been the obvious transition to black and white, that limits the subject he works with. But the fluidity of Site/Cloud’s multiple layers corresponds precisely to the initial intention the Japanese photographer had, to give a ‘sense of water’ to Water Side. Daisuke Yokota’s world is an underwater one, where trees, water and all nature seems to engulf a faceless man who runs away, chased by the shadows that in Water Side are only perceivable and that in Nocturnes are revealed thanks to a tested technique reaching its maturity.
In practice this is the result evident to the eye, but in this metalanguage there are many other meanings that are intertwined. Man Ray wrote: “Of course, there will always be those who look only at technique who ask ‘how’, while others of a more curious nature will ask ‘why’”. Daisuke Yokota’s ‘why’ is seen in a reminiscent dimension, linked to his impressions and feelings, recalling to his memory. A memory that often finds interferences, echoing the anxieties of the unconscious and the unspoken, escalating so to give life to its own ghosts. The work of Yokota is a layering of stories that pour on each other, piling and overlapping in disarrey: the first digital shot is a substrate where more meanings are then added from re-photographs of film, enhancing so the skeleton of something that belongs to an ambiguous memory and that, in most 219
Antonin Artaud, Selected Writings English translation by Helen Weaver, ÂŠâ€†1976 University of California Press, Oakland
Opium is that inviolable and despotic substance which allows those who had the misfortune to lose the life of their souls the possibility of recovering it.
YET magazine is a triannual photography publication which showcases editorials and photographic series from artists worldwide. Our aim is to feature several different styles of photography, without any restriction in genre, medium, or theme. We showcase both emerging and well-known international photographers – our work is basically characterized by the quality of the submitted project, from its concept to the shoot, up to the final editing. Since it has been produced and managed by people operating in the photographic sector, YET wants to show “the image” from other perspectives, starting from the photography itself. The whole working process in YET magazine is based on the firm conviction that a photographer’s work must be shown as it is: for this reason, all the photographic projects are published without any graphic or text insertions, not cut down and free from any form of further editing. Each selection is curated in collaboration with the guest artist. Along with the photographic series, we also publish reviews, in-depth articles and interviews with the key players of the sector, with the aim of giving an updated look on the international contemporary photographic field.
Comment & Notes
“What can be more curious than that the hand of a man, formed for grasping, that of a mole for digging, the leg of the horse, the paddle of the porpoise, and the wing of the bat, should all be constructed on the same pattern, and should include the same bones, in the same relative positions? […] Nothing can be more hopeless than to attempt to explain this similarity of pattern in members of the same class, by utility or by the doctrine of final causes.”
(Charles Darwin, 1859, On the Origin of Species, chapter X: “On the Geological Succession of Organic Beings”, pages 341-343)
Issue N° 06
YET magazine is an online triannual photography publication which showcases editorials and photography series by worldwide artists. In this...
Published on Aug 21, 2014
YET magazine is an online triannual photography publication which showcases editorials and photography series by worldwide artists. In this...