FIXED ON REALITY - HISTORY SHAPED IN THE PRESENTThe seminar will take a closer look at specific photobook titles and go more deeply into critical analysis of the visual image.
MONDAYSeptember 16th, 17:00-19:00Boksen, Kulturhuset, Oslo
In the first part of the seminar Rona Yefman, also showing at the main exhibition, and Bettina Camilla H. Vestergaard will present their latest book and talk about vital subjects in their practice.
17:00 RONA YEFMAN /Presentation /Conversation /Q&A. Yefman will talk about her latest photobook Let it Bleed (2016). Rebelling against conventional gender roles as well as familial ones, this artist book, chronicling an experience of growing up and intense relationships through a curve of fantasies, hopes, and desires; disappointments, confusion, conflicts, and flirtation with familial taboos.
18:00 BETTINA CAMILLA H. VESTERGAARD /Presentation /Conversation /Q&A. Vestergaards photobook As I Wander Thru The Park (2016) revisits the forgotten story of the Decenter artists’ colony, free-spirited space for artistic and cultural exploration, and its founder, Danish author and social commentator Elsa Gress. The book interrelates the playful nature of Decenter with Elsa Gress' underlying thoughts rooted in her personal experience of the Nazis in Europe and McCarthyism in the United States, which were essential for her lifelong fight for humanism and democracy.
WEDNESDAY September 18th, 18:00-20:00Boksen, Kulturhuset, Oslo
The second part of the seminar will start with the lecture of Katharina Sieverding: Photobook as a Social Sculpture. Afterwards Maria Pasenau will present her book: with king regrets Pasenau, followed by a discussion Beyond the Photographic Image with invited guests: Heidi Bale Amundsen and Bjørn Schiermer Andersen. The discussion will touch inter alia such issues as responsibility beyond the visual image, critical analysis of photography in contemporary contexts, redundancy of visual material and its impact on identity and society.
18:00 KATHARINA SIEVERDING /Lecture / THE PHOTOBOOK AS SOCIAL SCULPTURE. Katharina Sieverding has worked with photography and movies since the 1960's. She is known for her large scale self-portraits and reproductions from a time when photography, in a classical sense, was becoming prominent. Sieverding says in an interview: ´I love this whole new digital century. I trained a lot to work with fake news, and how you’re able to alter images. In a way, I also make fake news. I’m completely free. My work has been a process of emancipation from the boundaries imposed by histories and media.´
18:30 MARIA PASENAU /Presentation. Pasenau will talk about her photobook Whit Kind Regrets Pasenau (2018): `My very first book; captured in diary photographs over 3 years of me and my friends living young days in Oslo´. Pasenau is displaying a nerve in the current youth milieu, the vulnerability, intensity and intimacy within. Exploring complex relations between image and reality, body and environment, photography and art.
19:00 DISCUSSION /Beyond the Photographic Image with Heidi Bale Amundsen, 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, criticalreflection 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 networksare shocking, provoking, attracting attention, yet they remain silent; they lack sources and context, thus makingthem extremely vulnerable to various manipulations.
The photographic image has never been innocent, but itcurrently seems that, more than before, its harmful power can be used on a greater scale, either purposefullyor unconsciously. The way the content is createdand shared, even if it seems a part of freedomof speech, is in factnot free. We live in timesof platform imperialism; digital platforms have significantly influenced capitalaccumulation and digital culture (Dal Yong Jin). Of particular interestis 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'sreflection on agency and technology (Karen Barad, Donna Haraway, Bruno Latour) leavemuch space for optimism.
Understanding contemporary photography requires graspinga 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 rolesas 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 theplace 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 asmall 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 considereda photobook. Perhaps,then, the photobook has changed over time and manifests adifferent form.
Heidi Bale Amundsen holds a PhD in art history from the University of Oslo. Her thesis relies on a network perspective and examines how readers perceive structural unity in photobooks. Heidi is currently the Chair of the Norwegian Critics' Association (Norsk Kritikerlag) and she is a writer for the art journal Kunstkritikk. As a researcher and art critic, her special areas of interest include contemporary art, photography and aesthetics.
Bjørn Schiermer Andersen is a professor at the University of Oslo (Department of Sociology and Human Geography), where he teaches Sociological Theory and Cultural Sociology. He is ardently fond of photography, visual culture and cultural theory. In the centreof his research interests are such questions as; What is creativity in the first place? How does contemporary Western culture differ from earlier times? How to approach phenomena such as authenticity, humour and irony in a sociological perspective
The seminar is curated by Christina Leithe Hansen and Zofia Cielatkowska.