Date, 2017
2. Brecht’s UK Tour

The 1970s conjuncture in Britain that I want to discuss saw photography, and specifically documentary photography, aligned with what Sylvia Harvey termed ‘political modernism’ (strictly speaking, this would be second-wave political modernism). Examples might include works by Jo Spence, the Hackney Flashers Collective, the Women’s Workshop of the Artists’ Union who created the Women and Work exhibition, the Berwick Street Film Collective, Peter Dunn and Lorraine Leeson, Mary Kelly and Victor Burgin’s works between 1975 and 1976. These practices were closely identified with the work of the film-maker Jean-Luc Godard, particularly his collaborative Dziga Vertov Group films, but Bertolt Brecht’s ideas from the second-quarter of the twentieth century were pivotal for many artists, photographers, film-makers and theorists to the extent that collectively this work is often described as ‘neo-Brechtian’. more

Published: 19.09.2017
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1. Undocumented: ‘Intensification, Contraction and Localization’

In the week that President Trump tried to pass off assorted white supremacists and storm troopers as equivalent to anti-fascists, an exhibition of photographs commemorating the ‘Battle of Lewisham’ in 1977 opened in Goldsmith College in the South London borough of Lewisham. In August 1977, massed anti-fascists confronted the far-right National Front. The clash in Lewisham was a decisive moment in halting the rise of the Nazi National Front in the UK. more

Published: 07.09.2017
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01.05.–15.07.2017
5. M-I-M’

Let’s speculate a bit further, shall we? Going back to the programmable image as deterritorialized factory functioning to generate profit in accord with the formula M-I-M’, let’s try to imagine what it would be like to refuse profit – that is to refuse profit at one’s own expense and at the expense of all those undergoing dispossession – dispossession of their senses, properties and bodies. more

Published: 14.07.2017
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4. Photography, Computation, Radical Finance?

So what can we do? Let’s leave the wearisome if still at times illuminating path of critique and take this blog in an unexpected direction. Simply stated, the visual has been a pathway of financialization, racialization and gender formation – and these vectors are inseparable in as much as they are always immanent in any mediation dependent upon contemporary technical infrastructure. Communication technologies have become forms of fixed capital that serve as deterritorialized factories that put people to work, each according to their ability, each according to their need, but this time with abilities and needs ordained by Capital. more

Published: 03.07.2017
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3. Plantocracy of Computational Photography

Well, this AI business only goes so far. We still have to fight. Or at least blend.

Technically it is correct to say that photography, understood as a geopolitical and computational matrix of operations that organizes perception and consciousness on a planetary scale, is AI. There is no doubt this sedimentation of human practices has its own materiality, autonomy and intelligence that exceeds and outpaces the scope of mere human understanding.  more

Published: 07.06.2017
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2. Like Totally

Let’s take a step back here from the conceptually thrilling if psychologically chilling conclusion of the my last post that stated that the POTUS-Twitter cyborg was at once AI, a programmed image and a programmable image. Let me add that this sci-fi sounding conclusion is not my “belief,” it is derived from where the concepts lead. more

Published: 17.05.2017
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1. The Camera as Vast Automaton

As the process of photography becomes generalized, and blends with social, financial, semiotic, political, ontological, computational functions and more, our understanding of photography shifts. Is photography a medium or is it now “media?” more

Published: 05.05.2017
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06.03.–30.04.2017
5. Border

An edge, boundary, or line of demarcation. Few concepts feel as critical to the contemporary discourse on migration as border, for every migrating subject must navigate a physical, political, or conceptual divide. Especially thick structures govern my own country’s national borders, whose markings, surveillance, and protection are the subjects of current debate. Soon they may be fortified at high costs, as US President Donald Trump has issued executive orders proposing the construction of a new border wall between the US and Mexico. more

Published: 20.04.2017
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4. (Im)mobility

Mobility implies the ability – some say the essential human right – to move freely. But the global migration crisis reminds the world that not every subject can exercise that freedom due to their race, gender, sexuality, class, political persuasions, or national identity. Hence certain citizens of a country enter it with minimal restriction, while others and non-citizens are impeded or halted altogether. In the United States, press coverage of restrictions on mobility has increased in the wake of the executive orders in 2017 targeting people from certain predominantly Muslim countries. more

Published: 10.04.2017
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3. Diaspora

To speak of diaspora is to speak of a dispersion or scattering of people. It assumes forced or voluntary movement from a homeland – a geographical or cultural point of origin. It further assumes that people around the world who claim a common origin may share other points of similarity, such as a race, language, or set of beliefs. But as cultural theorist Stuart Hall has written of the black diaspora, diasporic communities are by no means homogenous entities. Rather, they are continuously taking shape through myriad migrations, political conditions, and local forces. more

Published: 27.03.2017
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2. Refugee

The first keyword of this series – refugee – pervades the global discourse on migration, and yet its meaning is not always understood. So let us begin with a definition. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which supports displaced people: A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. more

Published: 15.03.2017
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1. Photography and Migration: Keywords

To consume international news today is to experience one facet of photography’s relationship to human migration. Daily we confront photographs of overcrowded boats and trains; life preservers and backpacks, with or without their human users; fences, tents, and other spaces of containment or restriction; outstretched feet and hands; young children in the arms of parents or strangers; anguished, angry, vacant faces; and countless bodies arranged in lines, standing still or moving forward. more

Published: 06.03.2017
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09.01.–05.03.2017
7. What Do Databases Want?

For the last post in this series I have left myself an absurd challenge: to find a way of thinking through the mass image – that single, vast portrait gathered together from every digitised photo (and every mode of image capture) into one monolithic picture of the world in the accumulated databases of social media, surveillance systems, medical and scientific collections and all the other repositories of unregarded photographs. more

Published: 02.03.2017
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6. Assembling Photographs

Looking at animals is like looking at photographs. Or at least, looking at familiar animals like dogs and cats and horses is like looking at photos. They offer themselves up to us, but they expect us to respond as well. Pictures are the same. As W.J.T. Mitchell asked some years ago, whenever we try to get something from images, we should also ask “What do pictures want?” There is a yearning for comprehension on both sides. There is so much each can understand about the other, but only so much. more

Published: 22.02.2017
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5. The Image Withheld

All that distinguishes a photo as image and a photo as component of the mass image is the simple act of attention. Among all the billion images uploaded, stashed or discarded, only a tiny few secure even a few moments of active contemplation. more

Published: 15.02.2017
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4. The Mass Image

I wrote in my previous post that individual images use the unavoidable division between being and appearance to create negative images of the world, and thereby to create glimpses of happiness as the opposite of the world we inhabit. That seems to be as true of individual prints or photographs as it is of unique paintings and drawings. But can the same be said of images in the mass? more

Published: 09.02.2017
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3. Problems of Happy Images

I ended my last post 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. more

Published: 30.01.2017
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2. Image + After 2: From Truth to Ethics

In my last post I argued that the gradual move of photography from random scatters of molecules to formal grids marks its assimilation into formal modernity. Before leaping to this conclusion, it is important as well to reflect on photography’s place among scientific instruments, one of the major ways it was understood in its early period. Peter Galison makes a distinction between image and logic as two principles of scientific observation. more

Published: 18.01.2017
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1. Image + After I: Photography as Print and as Scientific Instrument

There is a well-known theory on the left concerning British history known as the Nairn-Anderson thesis named after two of its protagonists. Tom Nairn and Perry Anderson traced the peculiarities of the British state to the failure of the country to complete its revolution. Perhaps something similar has to be said about photography. At many points in its history, photography has been on the brink of revolutionising the very concept of the image; and yet the old still maintains its place – like the British monarchy. more

Published: 09.01.2017
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