I am very pleased to have been awarded the 2017 Australian Academy of the Humanities, Ernst and Rosemarie Keller Award. The Ernst & Rosemarie Keller Award supports the research activities of scholars residing in Australia whose research is concerned with German history, literature, language, politics or culture, or German contributions to the history, literature, languages, politics or culture of either Australia or the Asia-Pacific region. The Award will enable new research for my current project on Photography and Surveillance in Divided Germany.
AGENCY AND AESTHETICS: A SYMPOSIUM ON THE EXPANDED FIELD OF PHOTOGRAPHY. AUCKLAND ART GALLERY 31 MARCH-1 APRIL 2017 https://www.aucklandartgallery.com/whats-on/event/agency-and-aesthetics
In The Wretched Screen, Hito Steyerl interrogates the poor and latent image, the withdrawal from representation and the disappearance of people in the real and cyber worlds, observing that “photographic or moving images are dangerous devices of capture: of time, affect, productive forces, and subjectivity.” The concept of the disappearing subject and the latent image is also of concern for Australian photographer Cherine Fahd and Beirut/Paris-based artists Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige. While Fahd reimagines the body as simulated, performed, observed and camouflaged, Hadjithomas and Joreige explore the conditions that cause an image to withdraw, to hide or to disappear through photography and film. This paper considers the concept of the aesthetics of disruption to examine the work of Fahd, Steyerl, Hadjithomas and Joreige in terms of their investigations into the subject and image as concealed, displaced, disrupted and unseen.
SYMPOSIUM: The symposium included papers from international speakers including a keynote by Abigail Solomon-Godeau on Art Photography in the Age of Catastrophe. PROGRAMME
Reframing Seeing and Knowing in the 21st Century Symposium, 20 February 2016.
In this paper I examine the work of John Berger and Hito Steyerl to reconsider how contemporary photography interprets and represents recent history in an age of fragmented images.
The act of seeing and looking has many layers. Who is doing the looking and why? What is being seen? How is this being communicated? How might this translate into knowing?
With John Berger’s ground breaking work, Ways of Seeing, now in its 44th year, what is it that we bring to seeing and knowing in the 21st century that is new? How might cultural, social and historical perspectives, technology, accessibility and scientific or art informed innovation contribute to interpretation of what is being seen? In a time when ‘media snacking’ on a constant stream of online visual images and text based information is the norm, what, if anything, has shifted in the way we see and know?
How do these ideas impact how we see and perceive objects, art works, archives and other materials in cultural spaces? Do such acts of seeing contribute to changing perspectives?
I recently had the pleasure of presenting a paper at the Passages of Exile symposium at the Ludwig Maximilian University, Centre for Advanced Studies in Munich, hosted by Prof. Burcu Dogramaci and Dr Elizabeth Otto. A terrific symposium jam packed with new research in the field and preceded by a paper on by Prof Dawn Chatty, titled “Forced Migration: Contextualising the Syrian Refugee Crisis”. Following the symposium, a collection of essays will be published with Edition Text + Kritik in 2017 including my essay, Photography, Flight and Exile in Cold War Germany.
WALKER EVANS: READING THE MAGAZINE WORK
Walker Evans: Reading the Magazine Work unpacks the inventor of documentary style photography, offering three new readings of this crucial figure and a lively discussion with visiting British photography historian and curator David Campany.
Presented on the occasion of the exhibitions, Walker Evans The Magazine Work curated by David Campany and The Documentary Take curated by Naomi Cass. Presented by Deakin Motion Lab Centre for Creative Arts Research, Deakin University and MADA, Monash University, as part of the 2016 Melbourne Festival.
Friday 7 October, 2pm—6pm
Centre for Contemporary Photography
404 George Street, Fitzroy, VIC, 3065
Gold coin donation, bookings essential
David Campany, University of Westminster, London
Papers by: Patrick Pound, Deakin University, Melbourne and Donna West Brett, University of Sydney, Sydney
Followed by a Panel discussion
Moderator, Daniel Palmer, Monash University, Melbourne.
Each paper will conclude with a short question time and the symposium will conclude with a panel discussion.
Keynote Speaker: David Campany, A delicate balance
There are good reasons to be affectionate about photography and there are equally good reasons to be suspicious of it. As a medium (however you define ‘medium’) photography can be fascinating and compelling for image-makers and audiences. But as a mass medium in the service of all that is shallow, exploitative and distracting in contemporary culture there is plenty to be suspicious about. Whatever individual and artistic hopes we may have for photography, the medium never belongs entirely to the individual. If we were teaching media studies to a group of ten year olds, which I think is something we should be doing, then we would be teaching them to be suspicious: critical of the image world around them, be it news, advertising or corporatized social media. Suspicion is an essential tool of political and psychical health. But if we were teaching photography in an art class, we would need to encourage an affection for it. Suspicion without affection leads to cynicism. Affection without suspicion leads to sentimentalism. The best practices, it seems to me, balance the two. Walker Evans balanced affection and suspicion, especially in his magazine work.
David Campany is a writer, curator and artist, working mainly with photography. His books include A Handful of Dust (2015), The Open Road: photography and the American road trip (2014), Walker Evans: the magazine work (2014), Gasoline (2013), Jeff Wall: Picture for Women (2010), Photography and Cinema (2008) and Art and Photography (2003). He also writes for Frieze, Aperture, FOAM, Source, Photoworks and Tate magazine. Recent curatorial projects include The Open Road: photography and the American road trip (various venues, USA, 2016) Dust (Le Bal, Paris, 2015/16) Walker Evans (various venues in Poland, France, Belgium, Italy, Australia and New Zealand), Lewis Baltz: Common Objects (Le Bal, Paris 2014), Victor Burgin: A Sense of Place (AmbikaP3 London, 2013), Mark Neville: Deeds Not Words (The Photographers’ Gallery London, 2013) and Anonymes: Unnamed America in Photography and Film (Le Bal Paris, 2010). David has a Phd and teaches at the University of Westminster, London. For his writing, he has received the ICP Infinity Award, the Kraszna-Krausz Book Award, the Alice Award, a Deutscher Fotobuchpreis, and the Royal Photographic Society’s award for writing.
Patrick Pound: Walker Evans: documentary detachment, narrative sequences and telling juxtapositions
This paper will re-examine the long established position of Evans as the quintessential detached documentary style photographer. I propose that is only part of the story. Evans was the inventor of the clinically detached and knowing ‘documentary style’. However, we will see that his magazine portfolios and his portfolios in book form; function quite differently. I will argue they employ a surprisingly engaged pictorial narrative form that echoes his personal scrapbook arrangements of magazine cuttings, and international magazine tropes of the time. Evans arranges his otherwise detached documents in satirical juxtapositions and telling sequences. I will argue that the Vitruvius of the vernacular is after all, also an engaged and engaging storyteller.
Patrick Pound is a Melbourne based artist and photo historian and Senior lecturer in Art at Deakin University. He has a PhD in Art History: “Significant Documents: Photography and Narrative from Alvin Langdon Coburn’s and Henry James’s New York Edition (1907-9), to Walker Evans’s and James Agee’s Let us now Praise Famous Men (1941, 1960)”. His artwork is held in numerous public gallery collections in Australia and New Zealand including: the National Gallery of Australia, the NGV, the Art Gallery of NSW, the Museum of New Zealand and Auckland Art Gallery.
Donna West Brett: Damaged: Ruin and Decay in Walker Evans’ Photographs
In an interview in 1974 Walker Evans described photography in terms of its illusive nature as “the thing itself is such a secret and so unapproachable.” He thought of his simple and straightforward photography as an “unconscious phenomenon” that culminated in an amazing accident that arose so convincingly to speak to a generation of Americans. This paper will explore his photographs that image the ruin and decay of everyday life in America and what he called the “aesthetically rejected subject”.
Dr Donna West Brett lectures in art history at the University of Sydney. She is author of Photography and Place: Seeing and Not Seeing Germany After 1945 (Routledge 2016); ‘Interventions in Seeing: GDR Surveillance, Camouflage & the Cold War Camera’, in Camouflage Cultures: the Art of Disappearance (University of Sydney Press, 2015) and ‘Home and Homelessness: Ann Shelton’s Aesthetics of Displacement’ in Ann Shelton: Dark Matter (Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki Gallery, 2016). Brett is an editorial member & reviews editor for the Australian & NZ Journal of Art and Research Leader for the Photographic Cultures Research Group.
Daniel Palmer: Panel Discussion Moderator
Daniel Palmer is Associate Dean of Graduate Research and Associate Professor in the Art History & Theory Program at Monash Art, Design & Architecture (MADA). His book publications include the forthcoming Photography and Collaboration: From Conceptual Art to Crowdsourcing (Bloomsbury 2017);Twelve Australian Photo Artists (Piper Press, 2009), with Blair French, and the co-edited volumes Digital Light (Open Humanities Press, 2015), with Sean Cubitt and Nathaniel Tkacz; and The Culture of Photography in Public Space (Intellect 2015), with Anne Marsh and Melissa Miles. He is currently collaborating with Martyn Jolly on an ARC-funded research project around photography curating.
This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.
The Photographic Cultures Research Group presented the Photography.Ontology.Symposium. on June 2-3 June, 2016. The symposium engaged in critical debate with international scholars and specialists on the photographic medium. It explored the relationship between photography's ontology, the camera as a human perceptual apparatus and the unconscious through themes of evidence, the archive, photographic practice and theory.
Speakers included: Shawn Michelle Smith, Andres Zervigon, Melissa Miles, Katherine Biber, Donna West Brett, Helen Grace, John Di Stefano, Danie Mellor and Toni Ross.
Podcasts are online at the Symposium website. http://www.photographiccultures.com/podcasts/
Photography and Place: Seeing and Not Seeing Germany has been published by Routledge Advance in Art and Visual Studies. https://www.routledge.com/products/9781138832527
As a recording device, photography plays a unique role in how we remember places and events that happened there. This includes recording events as they happen, or recording places where something occurred before the photograph was taken, commonly referred to as aftermath photography. This book presents a theoretical and historical analysis of German photography of place after 1945. It analyses how major historical ruptures in twentieth-century Germany and associated places of trauma, memory and history affected the visual field and the circumstances of looking. These ruptures are used to generate a new reading of postwar German photography of place. The analysis includes original research on world-renowned German photographers such as Thomas Struth, Thomas Demand, Michael Schmidt, Boris Becker and Thomas Ruff as well as photographers largely unknown in the Anglophone world.
FORTHCOMING BOOK WITH ROUTLEDGE ADVANCES IN ART AND VISUAL STUDIES
As a recording device, photography plays a unique role in how we remember places and events that happened there. This includes recording events as they happen, or recording places where something occurred before the photograph was taken, commonly referred to as aftermath photography. This book presents a theoretical and historical analysis of German photography of place after 1945. It analyses how major historical ruptures in twentieth-century Germany and associated places of trauma, memory and history affected the visual field and the circumstances of looking. These ruptures are used to generate a new reading of postwar German photography of place. The analysis includes original research on world-renowned German photographers such as Thomas Struth, Thomas Demand, Michael Schmidt, Boris Becker and Thomas Ruff as well as photographers largely unknown in the Anglophone world. FORTHCOMING DECEMBER 2015 http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9781138832527/
Edited by Ann Elias, Ross Harley and Nicholas Tsoutas
Sydney University Press
Camouflage has been linked with military and natural history contexts, but growing interest in the connections between areas such as ecology, evolution, visual deception and warfare, has taken the concept of camouflage beyond the politics of appearance, the art of disappearance or simple strategies of mimicry.
Approaching this subject from the disciplines of art history and theory, art practice, biology, cultural theory, literature and philosophy, this volume greatly expands the reach of camouflage's cultural terrain. The result is a collection that provides a new perspective on the developing discourse of camouflage and contributes to debates about the roles that physical, artistic and social camouflage play in contemporary life.
My chapter ‘Interventions in seeing: GDR surveillance, camouflage & the Cold War camera’, discusses an archival project by Arwed Messmer and Annett Gröschner titled The Other View: The Early Berlin Wall from 2011 and another project by Messmer titled Reenactments 2014. Both projects take archival photographs from the Cold War (the border photographers and the Stasi) as a source for the relevant series.
The Other View: The Early Berlin Wall
" Messmer’s photographic engagement with images from these archives explores issues of propaganda and concealment in relation to the erection of the Berlin Wall, attempted border breaks and their associated crime-scenes, and brings into view heinous actions of surveillance activities against German citizens. Combined with the relatively unchartered limits on seeing in Germany, both in the national socialist period and the Cold War, the photographic archival projects discussed here take on new meaning and can be read as engaging with a specific photographic seeing, which is to look at looking itself."
"In developing his enquiry into the GDR archives, Messmer has turned to issues related to the psychological space of surveillance photography taken by the Stasi, in particular, photographs of attempted escape reenactments. As Messmer explained in an interview with the author, when GDR citizens were caught attempting to escape they were often forced to reenact their attempt for the Stasi record. Part of this reenactment included cruel, psychological torture of exacting detail that was recorded in photographs."