THE ETHICS OF PHOTOGRAPHY AND THE POLITICS OF THE IMAGE IN TIMES OF CRISIS
(this conference will be held in English)
May 19, 2016, 16:00 – 20:00
May 20, 2016, 10:00 – 14:00
French Institute (Galeria “Benjamin Fondane”)
(26 Carol I blvd.)
Participants: Pascal Beausse (Director of the Photography Collection within the Centre national des arts plastiques, Paris), Călina Bârzu (Researcher at the Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam), Louise Clements (Artistic Director at QUAD and at FORMAT International Photography Festival in Derby), Laurențiu Fuiorea (Bucharest University), Markus Hartmann (Photography Book Editor and Co-founder of Hartmann Projects, Stuttgart), Corina Ilea (Independent Curator and Photography Scholar. She was Associate Curator for the 2015 edition of Le Mois de la Photo à Montréal), Diana Margarit (lecturer, “Al. I. Cuza” University, Iaşi), Raluca Nestor (lecturer, National University of Arts, Bucharest), Ana Lúcia Coelho Pereira da Silva Nobre (University of Lisbon, with a grant from FCT – Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia).
In the last years, striated by a multitude of crises – economical, political and cultural crises –, the photographic practices have created ethical tensions and they have been politicized out of a necessity to speculate the opportunity of transforming the reality. The financial, governmental and axiological objectivities came to be reconsidered by narrative reconstruction, fictional manipulation of the representation and (self)caring techniques of subjectivization, facilitated by the freely use of editing and the invasive post-processing tasks accomplished by decisions of masking, cropping, retouching, filtrating.
The relativity of the ethical judgment of an image could be given by the prevalent political nature of the message where both the justification of an interest to emphasize a fact and the argumentation of interpreting an action could be significant. In this case, the correctness comes to be discussed in relation with the acceptability and the responsibility would reach the situation of being exposed to an ideological deconstruction.
Considering that the gray area or the blind spot of the photographic ethics could be constituted as object-objective of utopical exploration, new ways of understanding the politics of photographical practice could be configured, in the times of crises, beyond the motivation of the citizen journalism, as well as new ways of rethinking the constitution of an ethics of image from the perspective of a necessary production of reality, maybe even beyond the critique, using the impactful power of a composition.
The conference will be held in English and it will be open to the public. CAMERA PLUS, Biennial of Contemporary Photography and Moving Image is financially supported by the Administration of the National Cultural Fund in Romania, Institut Francais in Iasi, British Council Iasi, Deutschen Kulturzentrum in Iasi.
PART I – MAY 19, 2016
Moderator: Cristina Moraru
(Centre of Contemporary Photography and the University of Arts “George Enescu”, Iaşi)
(Artistic Director at QUAD and at FORMAT International Photography Festival in Derby)
16:00 – 16:45
Expanding Photography: photo festivals, mass participation and socially engaged practice in international contemporary photography
Since the emergence of web 2.0 in 2014 the internet has played a vital role in enabling curators, artists and global participation to develop new forms, photography has moved far beyond the print. Today the context for the presentation and encounter with images is larger than ever with thousands of opportunities in galleries, books, magazines, apps, open calls, blogs, pop-ups, advertising and the list goes on, alongside this a new generation of hybrid curators have emerged online, in publishing, across galleries, independent, global and nomadic. The past decade was a digital open source revolution, accessible and dynamic it marked the transition from consumption to pro-active participation. A range of new features have thrived since, including a focus on user generated content, information sharing, remix culture, interactivity and – more importantly – collaboration. This visual lexicon and image database is a familiar global language, non-verbal and more often than not, digital. Far beyond the control of the curator, who attempts to make sense of the fragments of this field, photography has founded an entire world of understanding that encompasses and is mediated by a vast number of relations, concerns and potentials to manifest as one of the most important aspects of our 21st century human condition. In my talk I would like to share some of highlights from recent projects to look at the role of photography festivals as sites for engagement for photographers and audiences, on and offline.
(Independent Curator and Photography Scholar. She was Associate Curator for the 2015 edition of Le Mois de la Photo à Montréal.)
16:45 – 17:30
Expanded Fictions: Images of Exile
People exist in exile. Images exist in exile. The extended contemporary migration phenomenon is configured by the profusion and ubiquity of images constantly generated and almost instantly circulated through social media channels of dissemination. Partially democratizing the view and bringing to visibility the conditions of ‘bare life’ often experienced by migrants and populations under ‘states of exception’ (Giorgio Agamben), visual representations reformulate the civil contract of photography (Ariella Azoulay). Seemingly democratic mediums of transmission, online meta-archives and family albums of exiles are not innocent and devoid of censorship, obeying specific normative visual rules, sometimes dictated by communal interests and ideologies. What are the politics of image dissemination in the transition from the private to the public, under what ideological circumstances are they produced, and significantly, what is the ability of photography to represent the “suffering of others” (Susan Sontag) through the agency of imagination and fictionalization?
COFFEE AND BEVERAGE BREAK
(Photography Book Editor and Co-founder of Hartmann Projects, Stuttgart)
17:45 – 18:30
Should a picture of a catastrophe be beautiful?
(About the ethics in photography of war, climate change, globalisation, economical growth, urbanization, deterioration and decay. Studying the works of Olaf Otto Becker, Peter Bialobrzeski, Robert Knoth, Anja Niedringhaus, Walter Niedermayr, Simon Norfolk, Sebastiao Salgado, and works of Ostkreuz Agency members)
Photography has been the subject of image manipulation from the day it existed back into the 19th Century. Before there was photography it was much easier to manipulate for example the beauty of the king or queen by the portrait painter. The idea that photography would lead to the ideal objective image was always tempting but never fulfilled by modern documentary photography. The only real objective image I can think of is a completely black or white surface or picture, a minimalist, highly conceptual visual approach, maybe only showing black or white surfaces with longer captions describing what the camera would have seen would the lens cap have been taken of. All other image approaches are already an interpretation of reality. What is done today to images by using advanced imaging software was done in the 20th century (a bit more difficult and tiresome) in the darkroom or in manual film based color separation. Photographers have always tried to improve their pictures or make the message they want to send out to the world clearer, more shocking, more beautiful. The question behind an image is to me, what the message is supposed to say and whether or not the photographers have goals they want to achieve goals such as such as concern, creating awareness, helping political change or resistance and by what means such goals are achieved? Let us look at some samples of photographers that I have worked with or currently work with and some others I consider to be of interest in this regard. Questions raised will be whether dramatisation can be unrightful, the choice of point of view and subject matter, legal or illegal access to the portrayed sights, contextualisation of images.
(Researcher at the Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam)
18:30 – 19:15
Norms of representation on a silver plate
The issue of photographic representation has been the center of many debates in the course of the history of the medium and it is even more relevant today. Since its invention, photography has been a reliable source of visual information and it is known to accurately present reality. In the digital age the veracity of photography has faded due to increased possibilities of manipulation and the power to construct an image is more diverse. In order to gain a better perspective on the current photographic practices it is important to acknowledge the origins of photography when the conventions of representation were first established. In this context, it is necessary to consider how norms of representation in the daguerreotype construct an image and how these conventions reflect the cultural crisis in which photography emerged? The research is centered on case studies that illustrate the difference of depictions in daguerreotype portraits of the middle class and people from other cultures. The choice of background, composition and framing contribute to the construction of two distinct images according to race and status. The manner in which these elements are used influences the reading of the subject and his image. I will compare the norms of representation in portraits with those applied to landscapes to bring insight on the modes of displaying the picture specific of that period. The interventions on the depiction of the people in the daguerreotype are both obvious and subtle. The shifts in composition have great impact on the image of the subject and distort the viewer’s perception. The power of portrayal was in the hands of the photographers and it was them that constructed their own image and the image of the other. These opposing perspectives are visible in the daguerreotypes as they reflect the cultural crisis between the social classes.
PART II – MAY 20, 2016
Moderator: Cătălin Gheorghe
(Centre of Contemporary Photography and the University of Arts “George Enescu”, Iaşi)
(Head of the Photographic Collection at the Centre National des Arts Plastiques, CNAP, Paris)
10:00 – 10:45
Pascal Beausse will talk about the politics of his curatorial experience in relation with a series of exhibitions produced for the Centre National des Arts Plastiques (CNAP) Collection in Paris, raising issues such as: body, biopolitics, house / factory, representation of labour, globalization, migration and counter-history.
Mihai Laurenţiu Fuiorea
(Faculty of Philosophy, Bucharest University)
10:45 – 11:30
Dé(re)construction du sujet et écosophie
Une préoccupation philosophique importante et récurrente dans la pensée contemporaine concerne la déconstruction du sujet souverain, universel et fondateur. Cela suppose, d’une part, de la déconstruction des modalités de domination et d’assujetissement des individus, et d’autre part, la revendication de processus de subjectivation inédits, hybrides, marginaux, artistiques. Dans cette présentation, nous allons nous pencher sur ces formes de subjectivité, telles qu’elles sont décrites dans les derniers écrits de Félix Guattari et sur son proposition de créer des territories existentiels alternatifs sur le modèle de l’art : «on crée de nouvelles modalités de subjectivation au même titre qu’un plasticien crée de nouvelles formes à partir de la palette dont il dispose ». Cette pensée des formes actuelles d’existence, militant pour la reconstruction de l’environnement et pour l’invention de nouveaux rapports sociaux et de rapports à soi, Guattari l’appelle « écosophie ». L’urgence de cette re-construction tient au contexte biopolitique de détérioration accrue du cadre de vie, de précarisation sociale et de souffrance psychique, spécifiques au « capitalisme mondial intégré » (CMI), générateur de subjectivité normalisée.
COFFEE AND BEVERAGE BREAK
(lecturer at the Department of Political Science, International Relations and European Studies, Faculty of Philosophy and Social-Political Sciences “Al. I. Cuza” University, Iaşi)
The Use of Image in Street Protests
When analysing social movements, the sources of mobilization represent the stake of social analysis. Why, when and how groups decide to act publicly, to express their outrage and discontent remain some of the most relevant questions on the way people struggle to produce social change. Despite such a heterogeneity of approaches, my paper is focused on one particular matter – the role of the image as instrument of social mobilization in social movements. In this respect, it seeks to provide an answer to the following question: How relevant is the use of image in mobilizing social groups in street protests?
Raluca Oancea Nestor
(lecturer in Aesthetics and New Media, Bucharest National University of Arts, Department of Theory and Research)
Image in Post-Human Paradigm
At the beginning of a new century we are facing a significant series of aesthetic challenges implying provocative artistic mutations and unexpected theoretical approaches. New hybrid domains such as artistic nano- and genetic technologies or geo-philosophy (Deleuze) spring out. In the context of the reevaluation of Human Sciences as a whole, as a unique interdisciplinary field, contemporary art redefines itself as a socio-political practice, as an applied anthropology as well as a field of enquiry where truth and knowledge are to be encountered. Following in Nietzsche’s footsteps, contemporary thought searches for a method to surpass the modernist substantial, anthropocentric view. As an alternative to Cartesian “I think therefore I am”, Derrida thus proposes a new formulation: “The animal looks at us and we are naked before it. And thinking perhaps begins there.” A couple of questions stand out here: how do we know that thinking is so different from sniffing or scenting and why is this zone of sensibility so neglected or reduced to a secondary position in philosophy and the arts? In this context, one should also focus on the fact that agency can be a category that exists separately from thought, and take into consideration the distinction between subjectivity and agency, between what might be termed a sense of self-in-the-world, and a capacity to shape that world.
A new post-human view is therefore needed together with a thorough reconsideration of nature as nature in itself, and with a firm acknowledgement of an independent animal phenomenology and animal Umvelt (typical environment-world). Thus, one should also notice the inevitable turn to transhuman aesthetics: a type of aesthetics that no longer follows the modern decree that everything is to be understood in relation with the human and by referring it back to the human. The human should take into consideration the shift from the trivial representation of the animal to the real animal interaction and concern. A new series of artistic projects have emerged from this urge to reconsider the otherness, the non-human. Animals are engaged by artists such as Olly and Suzi, Mark Dion, Paula Rego, Perdita Philips and Sue Coe in the making processes of the artworks, often through the marking of surfaces. The resulting co-produced artworks become then the ‘genuine artifact of the event’, of the animal’s Umwelt (Baker, 2000: 13). Aesthetics is redefined as a field of knowledge that enables us to reflect and ask questions about identity, creativity and post-humanism.
Ana Lúcia Coelho Pereira da Silva Nobre
(University of Lisbon, with a grant from FCT – Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia)
From the Abyss to the Open
Is photography as performance? Essentially, this assertion is validated through the preponderance of the process of the photographic image’s appearance over the question of the image’s fixation: its focus is in the image that is being built throughout a process that is intentionally not fully controlled. The image/work – photography without camera – is the trace of a process that was being, of the performance’s distended present. The argumentation of this central question calls together the concepts of Abysm and Open. With Martin’s Heidegger and his reading of F. Hölderlin’s poetry, the Abysm is assumed as the lack of ground, of foundation of the being. The being’s foundation is physis, a greek concept, retrieved by Heidegger. Phisis is the being in its entirety, the being’s being, life common to all that exists. On the path of Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology, which appeals to a direct and reciprocal contact with the world, we are body/flesh of the world. This Abysm is thus the (re)entrance in life’s own bosom, the descent to phisis, the acceptance of its essential rhythm and its living to the full. The concept of Open as set forth in Rainer Maria Rilke’s poetry, and analysed by Heidegger, is a double, consequent of the concept of Abysm. If Abysm refers to the lack of foundation of the being, Open refers to the being and the world. In this investigation, Open is a synonym of unveiling. We descend into the Abysm, to be able to fully access Open. The photograph is the performance: Photography as a sensitive, ephemeral experience. The performance is the photography’s actual production, the appearing of the image. It is the image of the world: it is the world that adheres to the world, and not an inert image substituting it. A photograph that is not fixed, but is instead, as life itself, in uninterrupted movement; a photograph at the scale of the body, opened to the body of the world.