Iza Pevec (born 1987) finished the studies of art history and comparative literature. She has been writing about art and culture for some time, she was writing for Radio Student and since 2014 she is also working for Radio Slovenia – Program Ars. As a young curator, she was part of the project Zagon of Gallery Škuc and part of the Incubator for young curators, the program of the Centre and Gallery P74. Since 2013, she is also writing for the Fotografija and Membrana magazines.
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.
The work of an Austrian artist Lukas Birk can be connected to some dilemmas of documentary photography. If the critique of the classical documentary photography stresses the responsibility towards the photographed subject and the problem of the exoticization for the western view, Birk’s work is often developed, displayed and distributed in the place where his projects are created. Therefore, the first audience of his projects are locals and are, in that way, maybe more closely connected to the project itself. He co-founded the Austro Sino Arts Program in China and founded a residency program SewonArtSpace in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The project Afghan Box Camera, which he developed with the ethnographer Sean Folley, focuses on the photographic praxis in Afghanistan, mainly on the type of a simple instant camera, which was traditionally used there but its use is now in decline. They investigated the origins, techniques and the many personal stories of the photographers using or having used this type of camera and also made instructional videos on how to build or use one. Attention to the overlooked photographic practices, history and contexts marks also his current project The Myanmar Photo Archive, a growing collection of Myanmar photographs that were created during and after the colonial period – the work of local photographers from that period has namely remained unknown until today.
Photographer Simon Menner is less and less interested in taking new photographs, the focus of his praxis has for some time now mostly been reflecting photography – he is interested in how we understand images (and why), its different roles and how photography fulfils them. With a series titled Camouflage, he brought into question our faith in the credibility and truthfulness of the photographs. The series shows snipers, hidden in nature. Snipers are not actually being shown, as it is impossible to see them in the vast majority of cases. However, this did not prevent the internet audience from searching for the snipers in an almost “Where is Waldo” manner and spotting them. He addressed a different aspect of the photography with the Surveillance Complex section of his work. The photographs from the Stasi archive are burdened with their potential as the evidence material. Recently, Simon Menner has been obsessively collecting ISIS propaganda. He then analyses it and breaks it down into such details as gestures, beards or embraces. Through this procedure he exposes the often absurd ways of building a propaganda narration. Menner’s projects are diverse, but they revolve mainly around the power(lessness) of photography. We, therefore, began the discussion with the question concerning the role of the artist in today’s world.
From the beginnings of the photography, portrait photography has had a special aura – reading one’s own facial expressions and those of others is after all a very human trait. In his project Immersion, British artist Robbie Cooper presents a specific type of portraits – portraits of people as media consumers. We are all aware of the frightening statistics of the average number of hours spent behind the screen, yet Cooper’s intention was not to moralise. A diverse spectrum of people’s expressions captured during watching various media content tells only one part of our human story. In the Immersion, the screen becomes some kind of mirror, recording intense expressions of the portrayed persons, captured with an in-built camera. Because of the accompanying sound, we can guess what the people are watching – the content includes everything, from video games, pornography to snuff movies. Stills from the movies have less documentary value. With the help of the high quality of the photos, the frozen grimaces become peculiarly similar to the classical portraits from the history of art. Almost eccentric grimaces confuse us and at the same time remind us how realistic virtual reality feels. Cooper had already explored our relationship towards virtual reality in his project Alter Ego, in which he sets the gamers of virtual games next to their avatars. He was interested in the human element of virtual worlds by questioning what imaginary personas can tell us about their creators. Throughout our conversation, questions of human consciousness arose.