Rabu, 28 Februari 2007

Into the Picture

Among the many fascinating things about yesterday's conference on photography as an art form by Delfim Sardo at the Culturgest, the one that confused me most was the setting.
Since the small auditorium where the conference took place filled up quickly, the organizers decided to allow the remaining spectators (about 50 of them or more!) to sit in the tiny entrance and listen to the conference while watching it on a TV screen.
This is not an uncommon practice. Still, there was something about it that made one wonder. We could hear the speaker, but the image on the TV screen showed only the images that were projected to accompany the lecture (because of the size of the TV, it wouldn't make sense to get the general view of the stage). Delfim Sardo read his lecture, and although I couldn't see it to confirm it and he is an excellent reader, often stopping to tell an anecdote or two, the bulk of it was there in the text. So there we were, all 50 of us, sitting in a hallway, some of us standing or sitting on the ground, to listen to a lecture and see a series of images.
What was it about the event that made it so unique? Was it because we had all traveled that far and didn't want to leave empty-handed? Or was it because it was free? Or because it was so original? One thing was certain: one can hardly say it was because it was live. The conference could very well be an illusionist trick, there could be no one there and what we would have gotten would have been the same: a recorded voice and recorded images. The 'live' aspect of that event was a pure convention. Yet, nearly no one left in the middle.
There is something in the idea of witnessing that is more powerful than the actual thing.
The conference was mainly about the possibilities of using photography as a means of transforming reality, their origins and their impact. We saw the impressive, huge Russian constructivist images and compositions, and the comparable Nazi posters, and the contemporary works of the likes of Jeff Wall - with the references do Velasquez and Monet... All this on a small TV screen reproducing the reproduction that Delfim Sardo made of a reproduction of a reproduction. And yet, it was the real thing.

Now, see the work of Thomas Wrede, photographer. Thomas Wrede seems to be enjoying the idea that it is still, and yet again, the real thing. It can start off with the pleasure of bringing pieces together to create a certain impression of reality:
This impression of reality takes its power precisely from the fact that it does not correspond exactly to what we feel is real. Only here, reality is an issue of the past. It is something that has been disposed of and now is being reinvented. The question is - what does it mean to re-invent? What is the reference?
What do we need to know? Which is real? What would be the point? The comfortable feeling of recognition, maybe. But what we get is hardly different.
Let's go a step further, then:
Don't laugh - this is serious business. What we have here is an image of nature. It is an image of landscape. And that is precisely why what we have here is landscape. Because if we swim in the lake, than it stops being a landscape, doesn't it? Or is what we need the possibility of swimming in the lake? But if we can swim in it, what is left of our contemplation?

The possibility of touching. Of talking about. Of having witnessed. This is a road. This is snow. This is the light from another place, from another landscape. I recognize this.
(But what is the work here - the picture of the snowy landscape or the picture you see above, with the spectators included?)
Finally, let's move out of this tight exhibition room or hall, let's go out.
How different is this? It seems just as constructed, just as formally challenging. Just as distanced from what I would think a place is, a landscape is, a view is.
Oh, how I enjoy this hesitation, this pleasure of falling into the trap, into the work, out of the auditorium where the comfortable presence of the speaker would have made everything transparent and much, much too plain.

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