International Photography Festival Organ Vida gathers artists from around the world who work with the medium of photography and/or its expanded form or whose work agrees with this years’ festival topic – “Hesitant Images.” The exhibition will present ten international artists who applied via an open call and whose works were selected by an international jury constituted by: Christian Siekmeier, Katrina Sluis, Steph Kretowicz, Mirjam Kooiman and Vesna Meštrić. The exhibition will feature:
● Liza Ambrossio “Blood Orange”
● Martha Frieda Friedel “éclat”
● Marko Gutić Mižimakov “Cruising the Manifold, Disoriented”
● Zhao Qian “A Field Guide”
● Oskar Schmidt “Liquid”
● Samar Al Summary “Trust Beauty Bank”
● Indrė Urbonaitė “Flamingos, Moonrise and the Slippers”
● Emilio Vavarella “Amazon’s Stravaganza: A Personal Index of Infinite Consumption”
● Shelli Weiler “Fabulations”
● Alba Zari “THE Y”
The past decade has been marked by a drastic development of digital imaging technologies which find their fertile ground in social media, especially those that are visually based. Everyday use of internet content becomes normalized, and with it the consumption of an incredible amount of visual material; the photographic image is more dominant than any other type of content due to the ease and speed of message transmission – from private communication, marketing and video game industries to contemporary art. “Networked technologies,” writes Astra Taylor, were supposed to “put professionals and amateurs on an even playing field,” and to enable artists to “thrive without institutional backing” and “reach their audiences directly.” But the initial optimism, based on the presumed democratic but also aesthetic potential of digital culture, subsided once it became apparent that market interests were hindering a radical transformation of digital cultural production and distribution.
Reflecting on the crisis of representation, Hito Steyerl suggests that the popularization of visual representation through digital technologies has caused a serious crisis of political representation: “Visual representation matters, indeed, but not exactly in unison with other forms of representation. There is a serious imbalance between both.” One the one hand, claims Steyerl, there is a huge number of images without referents; on the other hand, there are many (people) without representation. Furthermore, visual culture has, to some extent, been homogenised by computer-generated images, digital filters and other image manipulation methods. But they have also created new types of images that cannot be understood in terms of the existing aesthetic categories. Images that tend to replicate rather than represent. Should representation be replaced with replication, writes Steyerl, “what emerges is not the image of the body, but the body of the image on which the information itself is but a thin surface or differentiation, shaped by different natural, technological or political forces.”
Technology as an intermediary in the creation of images emerges as the first topic. Emilio Vavarella’s main collaborator in Amazon’s Stravaganza: A Personal Index of Infinite Consumption is Alexa, the virtual assistant that suggests products from Amazon as a starting point for artistic production. What results is a representation of the intersection of consumerism and archival practices, while the process itself problematizes the relationship between humans and technological power. Indré Urbonaite’s Flamingos, Moonrise and the Slippers obscures the image itself – selected stock photographs are run through an eye-tracking software. What remains of the original images of beaches and mountains are sightlines, “traces of pixels”, abstract images that document the act of looking. The emptying of the content of the image goes even further: the database of polished photographs ready for widespread use appears as the starting point of Oskar Schmidt’s series Liquid. Schmidt plays with the visual language of those clean, polished photographs, creating images without any concrete references. They are, simply, images – their meaning and appearance fluid, susceptible to change and manipulation.
The contradictory image appears in Samar Al Summary’s Trust Beauty Bank, which explores different layers of visual communication in public space. Living in Beirut, she documents her immediate surroundings during the economic crisis. Derelict public buildings, ripped posters – without any traces of life, the environment of contradictory signals in her photographs becomes a space of conflict between political reality and image. Reading and translating one’s surroundings is also the subject of Zhao Qian’s A Field Guide. This time, the focus is on zoos: Zoo No. 1: Some Rhetorical Strategies explores our understanding of the natural environment and our everyday reality filled with artificially created visual content. Marko Gutić Mižimakov likewise deals with space in his recital and visual essay Cruising the Manifold, Disoriented. These are queer spaces, an intimate search for sensibility: an algorithm that generates imaginary spaces on the basis of textual input, leaving gaps in meaning which is displaced beyond the dominant gaze.
Challenging gender identity – culturally inscribed spaces and actions – is the topic of Shelli Weiler’s Confabulations. The staged scenes play with accentuated physicality, with bodies that evade dominant cultural and political roles. This fictional series tackles the personal problematization of the gaze and the tension between the body’s naturalness and social game. In Martha Friedel’s Éclat, the body – i.e. the portrait – is a space of the search for beauty. Through associations of portraits of young people with objects, nature and architecture, Friedel’s concept of beauty relates to formal-aesthetic features and the visual movement of shapes and colours. The relationship between reality, dreams, imaginary narratives and the past are at the centre of Liza Ambrosion’s Blood Orange. Ambrosio binds a series of staged, surreal scenes with the concept of nightmares that haunt us as a result of trauma inscribed into our genetic code: they are pervasive and inescapable. The genetic link is also the driving force behind Alba Zari’s THE Y. Zari uses the medium of photography as a poetic method of researching fragments that make a person, in this case her father, of whose existence she learns late in life. Intervening into her own genetic code, she reconstructs her father’s face and materializes it in the social media sphere, where the hitherto unknown Y chromosome comes to life.
While it is equally important how and what they represent, these images are consciously and categorically hesitant. The artists broach the subject of the image itself – Emilio Vavarella, whose co-author is artificial intelligence; Indré Urbonaite, who focuses on the act of looking; Oskar Schmidt, who uses corporative communication strategies in order to create fluid images without clear references. In the context of visual communication, space becomes another important topic – Samar Al Summary juxtaposes the advertising industry – the industry that produces images – with dilapidated urban reality; through a reading of space, Zhao Qian problematizes the relation between natural and artificial; and Marko Gutić Mižimakov reflects on queer spaces, creating new places through image and text. The issues of identity, physicality, fact and fiction thus emerge: Shelli Weiler examines the very nature of the body and playing predetermined social roles; Martha Frieda Friedel explores beauty through the visual forms of humans, nature and architecture; Liza Ambrossio combines genetics and history of trauma with fictional narratives; and, finally, Alba Zari uses pictures and fragments to build an image of her ancestry.
The exhibition Hesitant Images explores, from multi-layered perspectives, the issue of the image in the digital age, everyday visual communication is public space, and identity, the body, and the relation between fiction and reality in the second decade of the 21st century.
Steyerl, Hito. “Ripping reality: Blind spots and wrecked data in 3D“. URL: https://www.eipcp.net/e/projects/heterolingual/files/hitosteyerl/index.html
Steyerl, Hito. “The Spam of the Earth: Withdrawal from Representation“, URL: https://www.e-flux.com/journal/32/68260/the-spam-of-the-earth-withdrawal-from-representation/
Taylor, Astra. 2014. The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age. Random House Canada.