Membrana vol 6, no. 1 (2021)
From the social and political struggles of the 19th century Paris Commune, to the anticolonial and anti-imperialist liberation movements of 20th century, through liberation struggles such as women liberation movements and workers’ rights movements, to the contemporary independence and emancipation movements (such as Kurdish and Palestinian), photography has been used for advocacy or mobilization of support for and promotion of the movements or their causes as well as for the historization of the events and struggles. Photography has documented and framed the pivotal historical moments, as well as seemingly unimportant trivia, to communicate the drama and complexity of collective action. The photographs of these movements be it that of social class, ethnicity, gender, or others, have always belonged to the idea of subaltern groups struggling against (and through) the currents of the dominant socio-political powers. Throughout the years and circulated across different social and cultural spheres these images have accumulated new meanings and, being constantly in a state of flux, they have been reconceptualised for the construction of an “ever new” reimagined present. From acting as a “silent witness” of the events (past or present), to operating as a vocal advocates for a particular socio-political agenda, or for a particular (re)interpretation of reality.
If photography functions as a visual performance of imagined social reality and is transfixed and signifiable only in view of a particular act it needs to perform, then how it establishes new threads of civic relationships, and the ways it enforces, or undermines the geopolitical power equilibrium, the dominant social stratification and the distribution of socio-political power are indicators of a photographic agency that is decidedly political. It is precisely the operational nexus of liberation photographs at the time of liberation or independence that is of essential importance. Do we view photographs of those movements as liberating “per se”? Or should these photographs only be evaluated on their impact and on whether and to what extent they have been able to affect change? Citizen emancipation and civic responsibility are certainly prevailing notions in such photography, emphasizing its transformative potential. However, in this age of national populism, post-truth, and actual fake news, when such imagery can be so easily used and misused as a backdrop for any given agenda no matter how corrupt or ill-intentioned, the social power of the photographic medium is put under question. Is the image powerless? Or does photography always in and of itself fight back? How can photography in contemporary social and communication milieu redeem its claim to emancipatory relevance?
These questions acquire additional urgency and complexity in the larger media environment as it is being transformed by digital technologies and social media practices. The utopian, liberatory promises of these media have already been broken—for example with the global rise of illiberal populisms—and yet the artistic affordances, pervasive democratization of production and circulation, and relationships between communities and networks offer both challenges and resources for liberatory public art.
Membrana vol. 6, no. 1 (Liberation) invites proposals of manuscripts and visual projects that address photography through the ideas of liberation and independence of various social formations. We are interested in engaging with submissions that consider the oppression of the dominant powers and/or in precarious relation to them through (but not limited to) the following perspectives:
- Politics and aesthetics of power – photography in narratives and counter-narratives, publics and counterpublics, propaganda and vernacular expression
- Liberation, emancipation struggles, and photography
- Acts of liberation, emancipation, insurgency, guerrilla warfare, and terrorism – and photography
- Authority of photography – liberation and the evocative power of photography
- The formation of historical memory – icons, symbols, ruins, and traces –
- Propaganda, agitation, civic responsibility – oppressive, liberating, and redemptive visions of photography
- Re-appropriation of images – images as plastic resources for communicative action, reconceptualising past and present, building coalitions, contesting hegemony,
- Historization of photography – museums, galleries, and actualization of political optics and networks through photography archives
- National, ethnic, class, and other identitarian liberation movements through photography
- Anti-imperialism, anti-colonialism – liberation movements and their contemporary resonance and actuality
- Photography for community, local history, civic responsibility – education for emancipation and solidarity
- Artistic practices – reinterpretation of photography as a documentary and artistic medium in the context of liberatory struggle
- Civic memorials, vernacular displays, and liberation movements
- Social media image propagation, liberatory and reactionary practices, and contemporary movements
- Visual tropes of liberation, independence, and emancipation
- Fragments and trivia: photography’s connections between everyday life and historical movements
- Contested images and contested history – actuality, censorship, and control
- Violence and violence of photography – liberation, justification, and redemption
- Working movement struggles and social liberation
- Deep-fakes, propaganda, and social struggle imaginaries – reality, fact, and fiction
- Photography in new media arts and advocacy: changes in representation, circulation, and response
- Photographic exhibitions and movement advocacy
Format of contributions
- Essays, theoretical papers, overview articles, interviews (approx. 15,000–35,000 characters / 2,200–5,000 words), visuals encouraged.
- Short essays, columns (8,000–21,000 characters / 1,200–3,000 words), visuals encouraged.
- Photographic projects and artwork: proposals for non-commissioned work or samples of work.
More information about the contributions and be found here. The contributions will be published in the English edition – magazine Membrana (ISSN 2463-8501. eISSN: 2712-4894) and/or in the Slovenian edition – magazine Fotografija (ISSN 1408-3566).
Proposals and deadlines
The deadline for contribution proposals (150-word abstracts and/or visuals) is May 31, 2021 (extended to June 11, 2021). The deadline for the finished contributions from accepted proposals is August 9, 2021 (extended to August 16, 2021) Please send proposals via the online form here or contact us directly at editors(at)membrana.org.