Invasion of the Lens: Culture Resistance and Aesthetics
As a medium that creates visual products, born during the Industrial Revolution, photography has directly influenced the evolution/development of visual aesthetics of the era and beyond all over the world. On the other hand, as its technology progressed, photography has become an industrial commodity that shaped the visual culture nowadays along with the technology development of the medium . In every industry, including photography, each product & phenomenon influenced by it, will always be the main basis of changes in civilization, and photography is no exception. The use of cameras to create photographic images today has mesh completely with the individual, from the camera on a smartphone to the complex high-end cameras, even to indirectly used cameras, like CCTV surveillance cameras, etc. That’s why it’s unwise if the discussion on practices of photography is limited in scope to just its technology. More than that, the area of the discourse, its influence on society, habit and also visual aesthetics approaches must be a more serious discussion.
“ Camera is a tool for New Man and New Artist” Alexander Rodchenko
A little questioning about photographic habit that contains representations and as evidences, are both a blessing and a curse for photography, resulting in public perception that technology enables and facilitates manipulation. The advancement in web technology also accelerates the spread of information, be it text or visual making it harder to control the medium of photography. This underlines the fact that this medium should be the target of important discussion in the domain of visual media today. Digital technology has opened a big opportunity in visual manipulations, causing the context of photography as evidence to be questioned, while the internet technology that makes the reproduction of photographic images infinitely seems to keep the photographic image away from its authenticity. The phenomenon of post truth (impact of manipulation practice) and post internet (related to reproduction and acceleration of circulation) in the world of photography can be likened to the story of the Opening Pandora’s Box in Greek mythology. Photography images are akin to viruses that spreads and dominates the collective memory of individuals today. We see the world through photography, and perceive the images as new reality, even though it has undergone manipulation.
One of the efficient way to control the photography medium in public space, be it in the real or virtual world, is by building a public awareness to respond to the practice of the production-consumption of photographic images. Reviewing basic aspects of the medium of photography and its practices become urgent, so that the public awareness can gradually be built through public education, based on accountable current research. Building bridges between disciplines and parties involved in the medium of photography becomes urgent, especially the disciplines that focus on the values of visual aesthetics, Art and its interrelations.
Art, as the discipline that has always been the initiator and indicator of change on every point of history, is a reliable subject matter in building the discussion as a mean to build public awareness through any medium. Photography as one of the visual media, by its nature can’t avoid the intervention of art in it, especially the visual art. Instead of becoming a controversy in Modern art, photography has become a medium with significant contribution in the practices of art in the Postmodern & Contemporary era. Postmodern that prioritize existence and Contemporary that prioritize representation, both are clearly related directly to the ontological habit of photography as well as the problematic impact of nowadays technology. Questions and criticism towards contemporary visual art seems to be easily associated with the photographic medium, both in its criticism & practices. Going from that, it’s reasonable to observe the practices of photography in various cultural background and how they respond to the media through practitioners that delved into the medium of photography through various genres in the corridor of contemporary art.
As a visual media that has been adopted in the domain of university education, it’s clear that this medium has been consciously accepted as a discussion that must be watched through a reliable discourse on the practice of its production and consumption. However, if we look closer, public education through academic thinking seems distanced and not well accommodated. This has a significant impact on the practices of photography in the domain of visual culture and art caused by the inept grasp on the discourse of photography. This can result in the public blindness towards photography medium, that can accumulates on the failure of the aesthetic value of photography in general, regression also happen in the understanding of the discourse, all the while progression happens in the development of its technology.
This exhibition; Invasion of The Lens : Culture Resistance and Aesthetics involves contemporary photography practitioners as well as academics from various countries and cultural backgrounds. It is hoped that the diversity will result in a variety of approaches and interesting ways to respond through the medium of photography. The collection of domestic experience, collective memory of an artist always bring forth restlessness, accusation, criticism towards the individual condition and identity which are then transformed into the photographic visual. Being in between the collective and personal identity, places the artists and their artworks as a intersection between the cultural system and personal aesthetics.
The problem of personal identity intervened by collective identity in a system, often time creates touch points, frictions, even collisions. This can be seen in the response to the work of Kang Jaegu : Soldier, that eliminated uniform as a metaphor of collective identity to be brought back/return to personal identity. The problem of personal identity linked with collective memory (where the visual of photography plays a part in it) was also criticized by Ryota Katsukura, Kamila Kobierzynska, and Phan Quang. Katsukura’s Nameless Story emphasizes the power of photography to capture moments in time, but it is there that Katsukura captured moments from the past (images and artifacts) and use it as his version of a statement of a generation. Kamila Kobierzynska’s When Cherries Blossom also looked into the relation between post-memory and human identity that shaped today’s identity. Where as Phan Quang tried to get out of the sadness caused by the collision between collective memory influenced by sad experiences of the journey of meeting people that touched their personality archetype, then Quang Re/cover it. On the other hand, critics on the changes of domestic environment condition causing a change in social problem, was put forth by Yong Hwan Lee through Sense of Deprivation, Observing Renovation series cause by city development that went out of control. Also, Anna Kedziora talked about the disappearance of the bonds between tradition and nature in South East Asia in A Beast of No Burden, with water buffalo as a symbol of unification between animal and landscape. Some clay tiles artifact with the hoof print of a water buffalo was presented by Kedziora as the representation of the bond between tradition and landscape as nature. Then Nguyen The Son’s Journey to The Windmill Land responded the distance between two different urban culture and clash the juxtaposition by bringing image (“carriers” as representation Vietnam’s streets) artifacts in the form of a print cut to going around in Groningen, recorded through frame of photograph. The play between imagination and perception about “place” reconstructed through digital image was responded by Wan-Ling Chen and Chien-Hua Huang. Wan-Ling Chen’s version of a city’s surveillance cameras, transformed become flatten digital image, otherwise Chien-Hua Huang doing reconstruction of architectural imagination from everyday images as representation how world’s game playing today. Peter Fitzpatrick’s Lost In Transit lean more on dark joke with tableau form triggered by the phenomenon of today’s investigation of lost package in trading, Jim Rammer played with imagined landscape, formed by the common landscape which shaped the contemporary Alien landscape through colors shifting. And Ali Mecca, chose to criticize the visual behavior through a technical approach (obscura camera) that played within the flexibility of space and time in a domestic context.
The exhibited works of this photography artists, clearly depict how the medium of photography are pushed to the limit from a technical stand point, and also from the discourse that result in an awareness how cultural system, collective memory, identity and visual aesthetics values are elaborated. At least, it’s an offer and solution that can be used as a reference on how the visual media are consciously constructed, and might one day become the parameter for the students in visual art and design, and in turn, the public.
It’s undisputed that photography is born as a negation, not affirmation, but in the hands of an artist, photography has a flexible language, intertwining with cultural movements and building its own aesthetics.