Content Type: Interview
Public space directs how we live and act, how we socialize and even protest. If there is no community and solidarity there is no city, no civilization; there can only be a »city-state« as the modern version of an empire, says Murat Germen, photographer known for his critical view on the home-town of Istanbul. Muta-morphosis, probably one of his most famous series, uses digital manipulation to show a dark vision of future cities: buildings cramed together as in a strange and dangerous mutation process, almost melting as objects in Dali’s paintings. Through his artworks, text and lectures, Murat Germen criticizes excessive urbanization, motivated by capital and not by human needs. He also documented Gezi Park protests, in which the political aspect of managing the city became very apparent. His photos can be understood as a visual protest and Murat Germen thinks some of them may turn into visual evidence of the urban crime committed by the present Turkish government since 2002, when it came to power.
Contribution focuses on the series Travelling Through the Territory by Brazilian photographer, Gabriel Uchida, in collaboration with the Uru-eu-wau-wau. In the interview, his experience living and collaborating with the Native peoples of the Amazon, the political climate in Brazil and the unsettling feeling towards the destruction of the Amazon are discussed. Brazil’s historical narrative has largely situated itself in contraposition to Indigenous narratives, which are often marginalized and submerged to a time immemorial. Illegal land invasions, death threats and injustice are on the rise, heightened by the damaging rhetoric of President Bolsonaro. Today, the Indigenous population is inseparable from resistance and protest, photography lends itself as a tool for self-defense and preservation. Besides cameras, the Internet is largely accessible, compact (smartphones) and provides direct contact with global audiences, contributing to the circulation of information and unbiased narratives.
Maja Smrekar is a visual artist addressing current phenomena in contemporary society. Her earlier works often touch upon the mundane permeated by stereotypes of popular culture, the future as understood through fiction, and the ethical aspects of human interventions in nature and natural processes. In 2014, she began performing her continuous work K-9_topology, in which she analyses the causes and consequences of human domination on the planet, and questions the self-evidence of the anthropogenic mentality. During the following four years, this artistic research and extremely interdisciplinary action led her to deeply explore the relationship between a human and a dog. Individual elements of the project were introduced through performance, installation, artist book, and photography. The following interview focuses on this segment of her work; on her reflections on the relationship between a human and an animal; and on certain important social contexts that define her work.
We meet with David Bate, artist and theorist working in photography in a Portuguese cafe in London the day the United Kingdom is holding what will most probably be its last European Parliamentary elections. The country has been at the forefront of education in photography, offering a record number of university degrees which historically were pioneer in introducing critical theory as part of the curriculum. But today this situation might have changed. The conversation flows freely between Bate’s experience of growing up in a working class area in 1970s UK and the realities of today’s educational and social system, the correlation between theory and practice and the paradoxes of the digital image and our current relation to it, aiming to introduce (or update) our readers to one of the most thought provoking and rigorous critical practitioners (which is to say, thinkers) working in and with the medium today.
In the interview Spanish photographer Joan Fontcuberta reflects upon his diverse photographic practise and his constant playing on the idea of different spaces which photography inhabits. He claims that “Photography by itself doesn’t mean anything,” what makes a difference is managing its uses. He discusses the topics of reformulation of the concept of authorship, notion of the fake as a methodology of art and of political activism, parody and humour as long traditions of Mediterranean thought and a rejection of pleasure as a hegemonic current in contemporary art. He also speaks of his explorations of the relationship between nature photography and nature of photography, the Eden of Adam and Eve as the first botanical garden and the fact that today nature has become a cultural, ideological, economic and political construct. In the end he also touches on the phenomenon of the internet, ideas of post-truth and his concept of Homo photographicus.
The conversation between the two researches revolves around the central question of backdrop, its meaning, position inside the studio practices. It delves into the performative aspect of backdrop photography putting it in proximity with theatre and cinema, question its nature as a prop in the process of staging an image. The question seem to be how can photography as a general practice can be understood and its theoretical notions enriched through research into rich backdrop practices (in case of Pinney and Fevero mostly in India and surrounding region) and how can we explain those practice via the established theoretical cannons. The conversation negotiates through main notions of authors such as Michael Fried, John Tagg, illuminates on usually neglected nuances of Barthes Camera Lucida to finally elaborate the profilmic nature of backdrop photography and its representative role of the society in which it functions. What kind of politics of space does it represent; is it transformative or representative? What is the meaning of the notion of the prophetic nature of photography?