Still Searching…

From 2012 to 2023, the discursive blog format of Fotomuseum Winterthur subjected all aspects of photography and its role in visual culture to interdisciplinary scrutiny. The approximately 50 bloggers that contributed to Still Searching… discussed photographic media and forms within their complex technological, capitalist and ideological networks and negotiated some of the most pressing and relevant questions surrounding photography.

Blog series: Processing

Sean Cubitt | 05.03.2017 – 19.04.2024
Processing

The photographic image introduced a radical new proposition about representation. Drawing, painting and printmaking required prolonged contemplation of subjects. The long exposures of early photography seemed to parallel that durational encounter. But the appearance of the snapshot changed that. The photogram was an isolated moment singled out that provided a new aesthetic and a new ethical quandary about the instant seized abruptly from the flow of time. The moving image may be seen as an attempt to heal this trauma in the flux of time, but one that created new modes of temporal alienation. Digital imaging, still and moving, alters the conditions of the photogram, bringing it closer to the processing of scientific instruments. In his blog series, thinking ahead of a proposed new avenue of research into the aesthetic politics of truth, Sean Cubitt draws on thinkers from Flusser to Badiou to consider the changing nature and function of time from the decisive moment to data visualisation.

Problems of Happy Images

Monday, 30.01.2017
<p>I ended my <a href="https://www.fotomuseum.ch/de/explore/still-searching/articles/29961_image_after_2_from_truth_to_ethics" target="_blank" rel="noopener">last post</a> with the ethical and political demand for happiness for all. Yes, it is a radical demand. Our world is not a very happy place; and each of us has been schooled, by religion, politics, and what we like to call reality, that we have to put up with pain in the hope of something better coming along when we get to heaven or pay off our debts. Both prospects, in reality, are equally distant. Which means that we have schooled ourselves to accept unhappiness as the nature of life. Casting that off is a huge psychological task, let alone the immense political revolution that would have to happen to realise happiness for everyone.</p>
Blog series: Photography and the Language of Things

David Cunningham | 15.05. – 14.09.2016
Photography and the Language of Things

Until the end of June, David Cunningham will reflect on some current debates around photography and what Hito Steyerl terms “the language of things in the realm of the documentary form”. The blog will examine what seems in such debates a widespread desire to withdraw from representation altogether, whereby the image becomes (to borrow Steyerl’s own citation of Benjamin) “without expression”, not a representation of reality but “a fragment of the real world”, a “thing just like any other”. Engaging with the history of a certain avant-garde that lies behind this, the blog will then pose some questions concerning the political as well as ‘aesthetic’ implications of such a thought of the photographic image.

The Return of the Real (Again)

Friday, 27.05.2016
<p>In my previous post I tried to sketch out some of those questions provoked by a contemporary desire, <a href="http://www.e-flux.com/journal/a-thing-like-you-and-me/">in the words of Hito Steyerl</a>, to side with and affirm the object. While this affirmation has coincided with a more general turn towards the object or thing in recent theoretical writing – and, consequently, away (or so it is said) from earlier concerns with language, text, discourse and sign – it has also been attached, in Steyerl and others, to a more specific call to rethink the character of 'the image', and of 'our' relationship to it, as one framed not by an “identification” with the image “as <em>representation</em>”, but precisely “with the image as <em>thing</em>”.</p>

If Images Could Speak

Friday, 17.06.2016
<p>In a recent contribution to the collection <em>Documentary Across Disciplines</em>, based on a series of events held at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin between 2010 and 2014, Christopher Pinney begins his essay, entitled “Bruises and Blushes: Photography ‘Beyond’ Anthropology”, with a quotation from Barthes’ <em>Camera Lucida</em>: “Society is concerned to tame the Photograph, to temper the madness which keeps threatening to explode in the face of whoever looks at it”.</p>

If Commodities Could Speak

Saturday, 09.07.2016
<p>“A commodity appears, at first sight, a very trivial thing, and easily understood”, writes Marx, famously, <a href="https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch01.htm#S4">in the first chapter of <em>Capital</em></a>. “Its analysis shows that it is, in reality, a very queer thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties”. For while, as an ‘ordinary’ object, “the table continues to be that common, everyday thing, wood”, “so soon as it steps forth as a commodity, it is changed into something transcendent.</p>

The Liberation of Things

Monday, 18.07.2016
<p>I ended my last post with the suggestion that underlying the recent turn to the ‘object’ or ‘thing’ one might glimpse a certain ‘posthumanist’ anxiety – an anxiety occasioned by the degree to which capitalist modernity is a world “ruled by abstractions”, <a href="https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1857/grundrisse/ch03.htm">in the words of Marx</a>; abstractions that have come to assume an objective reality which is ‘quasi-independent’ of the things, objects and individuals that constitute them, but which is not ‘material’ in any usual empirical sense. Such abstract social forms – money, the commodity, the value form – do not merely ‘conceal’ the ‘real’ social relations and objective networks constitutive of capitalism, but, on the contrary, actually <em>are</em> the ‘real’ relations that structure capitalist modernity as an increasingly global mode of social life encompassing human and non-human ‘things’ alike. The actual organisation of social and material relations is driven by a real abstraction that, far from being a question of mere faulty thinking or false consciousness, “moves within the object itself”.<span class="frzfn"><span class="marker"></span></span><a href="#Fn1" name="_ednref1"></a></p>
Blog series: Images without Viewers

Jodi Dean | 05.01. – 29.02.2016
Images without Viewers

2016 kicks off with a new blog series by political theorist Jodi Dean, “Images without viewers“. Until the end of February, Dean will reflect on the repetition and circulation of images in communicative capitalism. In today’s digitally networked communication practices, photographs and images are incorporated and blended together with speech and writing, a process designated by Dean as “secondary visuality” (akin to Walter Ong’s “secondary orality”). How do mass personalized media involve “secondary visuality,” and what are the political repercussions? What does it mean when images are less for view than they are for circulation?

Images without Viewers: Selfie Communism

Monday, 01.02.2016
<p>Selfies are a communist form of expression.</p><p>The critical reflex is to dismiss selfies as yet another indication of a pervasive culture of narcissism. I disagree. The narcissism critique approaches the selfie as if it were analyzing a single photograph. It views the person in that photograph as the photograph’s subject. Selfies, though, should be understood as a common form, a form that, insofar as it is inseparable from the practice of sharing selfies, has a collective subject. The subject is the many participating in the common practice, the many imitating each other. The figure in the photo is incidental.</p>

Images in Common

Tuesday, 23.02.2016
<p>In communicative capitalism, we communicate with words and images – what I’ve been referring to as “secondary visuality.” Communicative utterances that might have once been speech acts – like talking on the phone or sending a letter to the editor – now mix words and images: a text with emojis, an animated gif inserted into a comment thread, a meme. New kinds of visual conversations make stories out of photos and short videos (Snapchat). As interactions that flow across our screens, multiple images envelop us in a montage of humor, horror, the mundane, and the bizarre. Words and images are equivalent. One does not replace or subordinate the other. They intermix, mash, and mingle such that neither alone can be said to be the repository of truth.</p>
Blog series: Modernist Revisitations

Claire Bishop | 15.09. – 31.10.2013
Modernist Revisitations

Claire Bishop is blogging about ‘modernist revisitations’ – or, in her own words: “Sometimes it feels as if every art magazine I open, and every exhibition I visit, features at least one artist whose work earnestly addresses ‘failed utopias’, who is fascinated by ‘Modernist movements and collectives’, who is committed to ‘the re-enactment of historic high Modernist principles’, or who is drawn to ‘forgotten Modernist constructions that have crumbled over time’. Why this incessant retrospectivity? Are these revisitations in any way political, a response to the limitations of postmodern eclecticism? Or should they be viewed more critically, as an avoidance of contemporary politics by escaping into nostalgia celebration of the past? My blog hopes to raise some questions about the ubiquitous genre of modernist utopias in contemporary art.”

Delirious Anthropology

Saturday, 26.10.2013
<div>I feel like I’ve spent the last four weeks overstating my scepticism about contemporary art’s retrospectivity—as seen in the repurposing of modernist art and architecture, the incorporation of pre-existing archives, and the retrieval of outmoded mechanisms of display. All three are examples of art’s fascination with the past that too often forgets to keep its sightlines on the present. <br><br></div>
Blog series: What Can Photography Do?

Hilde Van Gelder | 01.06. – 14.07.2012
What Can Photography Do?

In her blog series What Can Photography Do, the current blogger Hilde van Gelder will examine art photography’s mobilizing potential in contemporary reality. She will investigate why artists use photographs in order to engage in critical debates about urgent political, economic and ecological issues for today’s society. On a more proactive level, the blog series wants to contribute to understanding how photography as art ― including the moving image ― performs as a constructive actor to rethink and reinvent human solidarity. Several concrete examples of photographic art works are used in order to provide a theoretical framework. The various consequences that artistic choices entail for the world views encapsulated within the proposed images, are carefully scrutinized. The blog series thus aims to raise collective discussion about the profound insights that photographs offer for both visualizing and imagining a renewed understanding of the concept of humanity. As such, this blog series is actively committed to thinking the multiple humanities of the future.

Aesthetic Ruptures

Monday, 18.06.2012
<div>On June 20, 2012, at 7 p.m., Fotomuseum Winterthur will screen Renzo Martens’s <em>Episode III - Enjoy Poverty</em> (2008). For several years, I have been researching (and lecturing on) issues – related to photography and beyond – addressed in this film, which was shot in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This has been especially the case within the framework of a research project that T.J. Demos (University College London) and I have been jointly working on. <br><br></div>