« THE PHOTOGRAPHIC – OTHER PICTURES », S.M.A.K. GAND

The Photographic I – Other Pictures – S.M.A.K.Gent (Gand, BE) – 7 October 2017–7 January 2018

The Photographic is a two-part group exhibition spread over two years that aims to gauge the significance of photography today. The first part, Other Pictures, comprises new and existing work by around 20 international artists and photographers and demonstrates an intergenerational concern with the photographic image at a moment when the medium is evolving at different paces. What is the status of a photographic image that freed itself from objectivity and verisimilitude, and instead solicits openness, indeterminacy or inertia so as to engender a heightened awareness of the time and space we inhabit, and is also aware of the complexities involved in representing them?

In this first part, S.M.A.K. focuses on the power of the still image as something recalcitrant that slows down our gaze and makes us look more intensely at the world in its silent form. The persistence of looking, waiting, deciding and finally taking images with a camera offers a critical, resistant, possibly subversive stance. It was John Szarkowski who formulated the familiar distinction between photos that act as a window and photos intended to reflect their maker. This exhibition demonstrates that photographic images fulfil both purposes at the same time and deliberately reflects on the concurrence of these two aspects: they all take a view of the world, invariably on the basis of a subjective and sensory conception of the subject pictured.

Other Pictures examines artists’ specific visions of and relations with the world, the artistic practice of photography and the public. The photographic image is approached as a view of and bearer of social developments, witnessing the process of globalization since the 1960s. Motives in the exhibition, such as the body, its pose and its surroundings, offer us a reflection on how body, landscape and architecture have been given an augmented economic role and have been subjected to stronger discipline.

As much as photography structures and alters our experience of the world, it also increasingly became part of its infrastructure. Technological developments in the civil and military field, for instance, transformed the medium in the digital era and are, in turn, infiltrating contemporary artistic practices. When considering the contemporary use of photography, an understanding of its social agency is needed, one which together with the medium’s affective qualities takes account of its conditions of production and distribution.

Several photographic themes structure the exhibition, such as the photographic act, the relationship between the moment and the archive, and the relational aspects defining the interaction between the photographer, his subject and the public. A focus on the bodily aspect extends to the physical form of the photographic object itself and how it relates to other photographic materialisations and the exhibition space where they encounter each other and the viewer. In a way, the museum becomes a place where the photographer, the pictures and we ourselves are given the room and the intimacy to explore and experience these interrelationships.

The Photographic I & II

Since its advent in the mid-19th century, photography has developed from a scientific instrument used to observe and analyse reality into an open discipline with a specific visual language that is very much determined by the development of equipment and techniques. The Photographic shows a subjective cross-section at a moment when the medium is ubiquitous but, in relation to the new media, is seen as historical and possibly even obsolescent. In our society, photographic images are simultaneously part of the infrastructure and manifest themselves as an artistic free-state that makes room for the production of other, novel possibilities within the present-day deluge of visual information.

The following artists and photographers are among those engaged for this first part – The Photographic I – Other Pictures: Lewis Baltz, Tina Barney, Mohamed Bourouissa, Marc De Blieck, Sara Deraedt, Patrick Faigenbaum, Jitka Hanzlová, Roni Horn, Aglaia Konrad, Jochen Lempert, Zoe Leonard, Jean-Luc Moulène, Zanele Muholi, Jean-Luc Mylayne, Doug Rickard, Michael Schmidt, Arne Schmitt, Allan Sekula, Ahlam Shibli, Malick Sidibé, Wolfgang Tillmans, Marc Trivier and Tobias Zielony.

The second part, The Photographic II, will be an open quest for the material aspects of photography in the broader framework of contemporary art.

To accompany The Photographic I – Other Pictures, Roma Publications in Amsterdam will publish an exhibition magazine. A programme in which the public can explore the subject in greater depth is also being developed in association with the Thinking Tools research group (KASK, Antwerp).

The exhibition is curated by Martin Germann with Tanja Boon and Steven Humblet.

Image: Jitka Hanzlova, HORSE, untite

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