Ivan Petrović (1973) has been working in the fields of photography and art for twenty years as a researcher, creator and collector. Since 1997, he has been creating and publishing photographic projects that reflect the spirit of space and time in which they are created, while in his works he uses both documentary approaches as well as research principles. In 2011, together with photographer Mihail Vasiljević, he founded a para-institution, the Centre for Photography (CEF). Despite lacking its own premises, infrastructure or funds for performing its activities, the institution deals with the search, preservation, collection and analysis of local photographic materials from recent history. In the past ten years, Petrović also moved his artistic practice beyond mere artistic expression, since he addresses the phenomena of photography from an analytical-theoretical point of view. His interest lies in the nature of the photographic image and its role in society and historiography. In this spirit, long-term projects such as Documents (1997–2008), Images (2002–), Portfolio Belgrade (2015–) and the latest film production were created. The interview with Ivan Petrović took place on 1 September 2017 in Belgrade. The main themes were the role of photography in the dominant history, the boundary between one’s own practice and archival work, photography as an art and the likes.
The Chinternet Archive is a collection of tens of thousands of digital images that artist Michelle Proksell has been collecting over years of everyday use of Chinese social messaging app WeChat. These images all come from public WeChat accounts that Michelle finds through a location-based function of the app called “People Nearby”. By regularly exploring the social media profiles of individuals in a one-kilometer radius from her geographical position, Michelle has been able to collect visual content shared by WeChat users in several Chinese cities as well as ten countries around the world. From filtered selfies to cheesy graphics, and from recurring themes of vernacular photography to emerging genres of postdigital aesthetics, the images collected in the Chinternet Archive offer precious and intimate insights into the everyday lives of Chinese digital media users. This essay introduces Michelle’s collection, presents various research projects and artworks through which the authors have made use of the archive, discusses the potentialities of working with visual content as well as the dangers of appropriating found images in the era of ubiquitous photography.
A commonly held assumption about social media is that because users create their own content such as images, videos and so on and thereby their own representations, social media are largely free from any ideological dispositions imposed from above. Creating images is a discursive practice, mediated by a myriad of social and cultural influences that we encounter in our everyday lives. Like in any other form of communication, certain image sharing practices become more dominant, where they intersect with a range of connotative meanings and their ideological dimensions. Within our current conjuncture of global consumerist capitalism, the dominant cultural order is that of maximizing enjoyment through consumption. This essay puts forth a semiotic reading of a cross-section of travel images shared by users on Instagram to explicate the relationship between travel photography, enjoyment as an ideology and capitalism. It is argued that to travel is not just an activity but it is a commodity that is consumed by us and sold to us by the tourism industry. Contradictions of life under global capitalism remain, with growing inequalities, precarious working conditions, casual job contracts and meagre pays. Material enjoyment remains illusory for many, while the ideological inducements to enjoy finds its outlet in the images we share. When shared on social media for the gaze and ‘likes’ of the viewers, our travel images are not just memoirs of a journey undertaken but also an affirmation of our enjoyment. For the viewers of these images, the enjoyment of others pertaining to consumption is to be envied or held up to an ideal against which the viewers may imagine their own enjoyment. Capitalism demands enjoyment in the form of consumption, and those who cannot enjoy, are ‘free’ to fantasize about such enjoyment in the future. While ‘free’ is the buzzword under neoliberal global capitalism, enjoyment is that kernel that underpins and sustains its ideology.
last calls for papers and projects
“From whatever side one approaches things, the ultimate problem turns out in the final analysis to be that of distinction: distinctions between the real and the imaginary, between waking and sleeping, between ignorance and knowledge.”
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