FIXED ON REALITY | seminar | FOTOBOKFESTIVAL OSLO (2019)

Title: FIXED ON REALITY
FOTOBOKFESTIVAL OSLO
2019, 12. – 22. SEPTEMBER
curator of the festival: Christina Leithe Hansen
curators of the seminar: Christina Leithe Hansen and Zofia Cielatkowska
more: Forbunet Frie Fotografer
http://www.fotobokfestivaloslo.no

Seminar
Part One |16. September
Presentations & talks
Rona Yefman / Bettina Camilla H. Vestergaard

Part Two | 18. september
Presentations by Katharina Sieverding and Maria Pasenau
Discussion with Heidi Bale Amundsen and  Bjørn Schiermer Andersen

Beyond the Photographic Image’

“Something was disquieting about visual images. They appeared to show everything, and yet, like the physical body, remained annoyingly mute. The visual world was like the husk you removed to get at the conceptual and verbal worlds inside, but having done so you couldn’t in good conscience throw it away.”

(David MacDougall, The Visual in Anthropology, 1997)

When photography appeared in the first half of the nineteenth century, together with other technological and social changes, it had an enormous impact on the way people communicated, experienced things, and perceived reality. However, critical reflection on photography appeared much later. The above-mentioned concern expressed by the American anthropologist connected with disquieting visual images returns nowadays in a different narrative marked by the redundancy of the visual material occurring at all possible levels of everyday experience (Hito Steyerl). Very often images in the media and social networks are shocking, provoking, attracting attention, yet they remain silent; they lack sources and context, thus making them extremely vulnerable to various manipulations.

The photographic image has never been innocent, but it currently seems that, more than before, its harmful power can be used on a greater scale, either purposefully or unconsciously. The way the content is created and shared, even if it seems a part of freedom of speech, is in fact not free. We live in times of platform imperialism; digital platforms have significantly influenced capital accumulation and digital culture (Dal Yong Jin). Of particular interest is how the digital influences democratic society:how it transforms the public sphere, or put differently, how the public sphere is shaped by debates surrounding crisis, conflict, migration, culture and our identity. Devices and platforms have remade the world and our understanding of ourselves within it (Nathan Jurgenson). Nor does posthumanism’s reflection on agency and technology (Karen Barad, Donna Haraway, Bruno Latour) leave much space for optimism.

Understanding contemporary photography requires grasping a broader context of how the image is transferred through global media channels and used locally, and how it functions within rising inequalities, misinterpretations, or misuses. It also requires a reflection on the different responsibilities we have as participants in a democratic society with our different roles as artists, photographers, media journalists, media editors, politicians, scientists, and individuals who choose to share particular content on our social networks.

In such constructed reality, what is the place of photographers? Is their voice heard in the debates surrounding vital contemporary issues? And if almost everything is digital, what is the place of the photographic book? Is it an aesthetic object just for a small group of people? Or does it have the potential to be part of the discussion for a larger public? One of the earliest photography books, British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions (1843) by Anna Atkins, was not at that time considered a photobook. Perhaps, then, the photobook has changed over time and manifests a different form.