The conditions governing the digital world have led to a radical diversification not only in photography but also in the theory that underpins it and the history that is written about it. Photographic media and forms are incorporated into complex tech technological, capitalist and ideological networks; the experts who are conducting scholarly research into the role of photographic images thus come from very different disciplines. The expansion of the discourse surrounding these images is also reflected in Still Searching…, the blog on photographic theory that was initiated by Fotomuseum Winterthur in 2012 and which subjects all aspects of photography and its role in visual culture to interdisciplinary scrutiny. The bloggers invited to the online format operate at the forefront of research and enhance our awareness of current issues that are relevant to photography.
Nicholas Mirzoeff | 01.11. – 22.12.2016
The Spaces of Appearance
Philosopher Hannah Arendt coined the phrase ‘the space of appearance’ to convey her sense of where politics takes place. Until mid-December, Nicholas Mirzoeff will be exploring the spaces of appearance constituted by the intersection of the ‘right to appear’ (Butler) and the ‘right to look’ in both present-day and historical contexts. How does this space of appearance work, and what happens in the space of representation in politics and visual media that is its counter?
The posts will be written ‘live,’ in the week prior to publication, rather than being excerpts from finished, written work. Themes that are likely to be considered include the state(s) of whiteness, decolonizing the space of appearance, and Black Lives Matter and its intersections. Dialogue is welcome!
MAGA Masculinity, Scary Clowns and the Souls of White Folk
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)
Jorge Ribalta | 01.06. – 15.07.2014
Centrist Liberalism Triumphant: Postwar Humanist Reframing of Documentary
Jorge Ribalta’s blog series draws inspiration from the title of the fourth volume of Immanuel Wallerstein’s landmark series on the modern world-system. Rather than a theoretical or philosophical discussion on the nature of documentary photography, the blog series proposes a historical understanding of documentary practices in photography, and specifically during the Cold War. Ribalta’s point is that the rise of documentary rhetoric and discourses in the prewar era reflected the need to provide a visual tool for the representation of the working class and its new agency in mass democracy. But histories of photographic modernism, mostly a postwar construction largely determined by Newhall’s contribution, offered specific “liberal” versions of the emergence of the documentary discourse that had long-lasting effects. For example, the hegemony of the FSA documentary overshadowed the rest of the 1930s documentary experiences, particularly that of the Worker Photography Movement. In the 1950s, the large shadow of the monumental The Family of Man invisibilized or re-signified other documentary experiments, like Italian Neorealism or Paul Strand’s photo book projects, just to mention two examples. In both cases, prewar and postwar, centrist liberalism is triumphant. In other words, liberal humanism seemed to be an unsurpassable discursive and ideological horizon in postwar photographic avant-gardes and its historical narratives. The blog series brings to discussion some ideas and intuitions dealing with the humanist condition of postwar documentary photography and its problems.
Excursus: Politics of the Victim
Abigail Solomon-Godeau | 16.04. – 31.05.2014
Starting on April 15, 2014, the American art critic and professor emerita Abigail Solomon-Godea, will reflect on a selection of the exhibitions (i.e., the particular) viewed in the past couple of weeks and try to distill, or extract, something that might count as some valid generalities about photographic practice and photographic discourse in their current manifestations.